Middle Tennessee State University’s 36th Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces events paid tribute to Gold Star Families and current and former military veterans Nov. 4 in special ceremonies across campus.
Since 1982, as a part of the nation’s Veterans Day observance, MTSU has held events — the Veterans’ Picnic, Joe Nunley Award, Veterans’ Village and a patriotic halftime show, in addition to the memorial service — culminating in an MTSU football game as the university recognizes the many heroes serving their country.
Country music singer and Grand Ole Opry star Jan Howard touched hearts with her personal remarks to the crowd attending the MTSU Veterans Memorial Service outside the Tom H. Jackson Building.
Howard’s eldest son, James Van Howard, died in Vietnam in 1968 while serving his country. He had been an MTSU student before joining the military. Her middle son, Carter “Corky” Howard, also was serving in Vietnam and brought his brother back home.
“This helped to heal a little bit, but it also brought back memories,” said the soft-spoken Howard. “Jimmy loved this school.”
While standing near the Gold Star Mother brick with her name on it, she admitted she was “glad the brick is in front of Jimmy’s name” on the wall with names of MTSU war casualties. Howard was nominated for a Grammy in 1968 for the song “My Son,” which she initially began writing as a letter to Jimmy in Vietnam.
Howard said “thank you” numerous times: to MTSU for inviting her and presenting the Gold Star Brick, and to those who served the country.
“The Gold Star Brick means more to me than anything,” said the woman with multiple awards from her distinguished musical career as well as recognition for her years of volunteer work and service on behalf of veterans.
“I’m totally blown away by being here today.”
Dan Rogers, director of marketing and program development for the Opry, quietly approached the podium as Howard concluded and presented her with a replica of a plaque displayed backstage at the Opry. He said the surprise was from Opry staff and fans around the world.
Country music singer/songwriter Bill Anderson, a member of both the Country Music and Nashville Songwriters Halls of Fame, introduced Howard, and Opry star John Conlee sang “They Also Serve.”
MTSU English professor Jimmie Cain read “To a Gold Star Mother,” a poem that’s engraved on a veterans memorial in Barnesville, Ohio, and MTSU history professor Derek Frisby paid tribute to Gold Star Families and Vietnam-era veterans.
Members of the motorcycle group Rolling Thunder performed the posting of the colors. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joe Gross, an MTSU student veteran, played taps.
Murfreesboro’s John Hood, an MTSU alumnus (Class of 1954 and ’74) who served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956, received the Nunley award, which is for service to the country and in his or her careers after leaving the military.
Alumnus and retired vet John Furgess (Class of ’65), who co-founded the Salute to Veterans event with Nunley, presented the award to Hood. Nunley, an MTSU education professor who later became alumni director, died in 1993.
The MTSU Band of Blue performed military fight songs for the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy during a patriotic halftime salute parade across Horace Jones Field.
Earlier in the day, MTSU and university President Sidney A. McPhee hosted the General Officers Luncheon for all generals who have served and retired with that rank. Family members attended for deceased Brig. Gens. Edward N. Fletcher and Noah D. Daniel.
McPhee provided the keynote remarks, State Sen. Bill Ketron read a proclamation, and retired Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber, senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, unveiled a plaque. Retired Brig. Gen. David Ogg Jr. provided the welcome and general officer introductions for the Hall of Fame induction.
Retired Brig. Gens. Stanley H. Lillie of Alexandria, Virginia; Terry A. Ethridge of Smithville, Tennessee; James B. Burton of Clifton, Virginia; and James P. ONeal of Seabrook, South Carolina; retired Maj. Gen. James R. Myles of Huntsville, Alabama; Maj. Gen. Terry M. “Max” Haston of Knoxville, Tennessee; and Lt. Gen. William N. Phillips of Madison, Alabama, were inducted into the Military Science Alumni Chapter Hall of Fame.
Lillie and Ethridge were unable to attend. Haston is Tennessee’s 75th adjutant general of the Army National Guard in Nashville. Ogg is president of the MTSU Military Science Alumni Chapter.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)
MTSU honors military with 36th Salute to Veterans game events [+VIDEO]
Oct. 31, 2017
Veterans and current military personnel will be the focus of the 36th Salute to Veterans and Armed Services Saturday, Nov. 4, at Middle Tennessee State University.
The day will recognize veterans and current military personnel for their service to our country.
Since 1982, MTSU’s Salute to Armed Services events have paid tribute to the men and women who serve or who have served in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
The Blue Raiders want fans to join them in one of the nation’s longest-running veterans’ celebrations.
All activities will take place on the MTSU campus, and will lead up to the 6:30 p.m. kickoff for the Conference USA football game between the Blue Raiders, who are 3-5 overall, and the 0-8 University of Texas-El Paso Miners in Floyd Stadium.
State Farm is providing free game tickets for veterans and their families; they will be available during the 4 p.m. pregame picnic.
Parking information for the day’s events at Floyd Stadium, the MTSU Memorial site and other buildings is available on the campus map at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap.
The timeline of Salute to Armed Services events includes:
- 2:30 p.m. — Veterans’ Memorial Service, Tom H. Jackson Building.
- 4 p.m. — Pregame Picnic, Kennon Hall of Fame lawn.
- 4:15 p.m. — Special salute at Raider Walk in Walnut Grove near Peck Hall.
- 5 p.m. — Veterans Village opens on lawn next to Alumni Memorial Gym.
- 5 p.m. — Dr. Joe Nunley Award presentation, Kennon Hall of Fame lawn.
- 6:30 p.m. — Kickoff for MTSU-UTEP game.
- Halftime — Salute parade featuring MTSU Band of Blue.
During the 2:30 p.m. memorial service, former MTSU student James Van Howard will be recognized. Howard died while serving in Vietnam in 1968. His mother, Grand Ole Opry performer Jan Howard, will attend the tribute.
The Nunley award, formerly presented to a World War II veteran who also made his or her mark in life after serving their country, now is given “to a veteran known for service to others in the Middle Tennessee community,” said MTSU alumnus John Furgess (Class of 1965) of Nashville, who helped establish the event with Nunley.
This year’s recipient is John Hood of Murfreesboro, an MTSU alumnus (Classes of 1954 and ’74) who served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956. Hood is director of governmental and community affairs in MTSU’s Division of University Advancement.
The 129th Army band will perform near the picnic site.
The Salute to Armed Services event also features an annual U.S. Marines Toys for Tots drive. Collection barrels for new and unwrapped toys will be placed at each end of Floyd Stadium and at club level. Donors also can place cash contributions in Marine ammunition cans with a slot; the Marines are not permitted to accept cash personally from donors.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee will have lunch with 16 general officers who graduated from MTSU.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)