MTSU’s Veterans Memorial Committee recognized Cold War vets with their annual service to kick off activities surrounding the 34th Salute to Armed Services Game Nov. 7.
But veterans from World War II forward received the royal treatment during the daylong festivities surrounding the Blue Raiders’ Conference USA football game against visiting Marshall in Floyd Stadium.
Between the approximately 30-minute memorial service outside the Tom H. Jackson Building and the football game — complete with special Band of Blue halftime salute — there was a military science ROTC-sponsored picnic, Vets’ Village and plenty of activities for veterans and their families and friends.
Nearly 600 vets and their family members attended the picnic and game.
Since 1982, MTSU has dedicated a football game to thank U.S. servicemen and servicewomen in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard for their sacrifices for Americans’ freedom.
“A strong and prepared military can prevent war,” said MTSU alumnus and retired U.S. Army Col. Mark Benedict (Class of ’85), the guest speaker for the midmorning memorial service on the cool, overcast day. “Nations who go to war often target the weak and unprepared first.
“Today, we owe a debt of gratitude to all veterans who served to preserve the fragile peace in Europe,” Benedict continued. “Some of their names are on this beautiful memorial. Some died in combat; some died in training accidents. But men and women from every state in the union performed their duty with honor. Today, we remember their sacrifices and the victory they accomplished for our nation and the world. Thank you for honoring them with your presence here today.”
During the picnic, Andy Womack, an MTSU alumnus and Murfreesboro businessman, received the Joe Nunley Sr. Award for his service to his country as a Vietnam vet and community.
Eddie Lynch of Smyrna, Tennessee, president of the Vietnam Veterans 1089 chapter for Rutherford County, said he “thinks it’s a great thing for Vietnam vets to get together like this for a football game.”
MTSU computer science alumnus Frank Forbes (’72) of Nashville, who served from 1966 to 1970 with the U.S. Army Security Agency, attends the game almost every year.
“I haven’t made them all, but I have made most of them,” he said. “It’s awesome. I don’t know of any other school that does this. The Band of Blue covers the entire field at halftime. I do everything I can to support and promote it.”
Members of the U.S. Marines collected Toys for Tots at various parts of the stadium before the game.
The MTSU Department of Athletics-sponsored “Salute” events concluded a major week for the university, which included the grand opening the $329,000 Veterans and Military Family Center on the first floor of the Keathley University Center.
Womack (’70) told the audience that the Veterans Center opening “was one of the best I’ve ever been to. I have never been prouder of my school.”
You can read more about the Veterans and Military Family Center opening here.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)