Friends of the MTSU Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center came together in-person for the Veteran Impact Celebration to raise funds for the center in an event highlighted by music from country music artist Rodney Atkins and a special auction.
The crowd gathered in the Middle Tennessee State University Student Union Ballroom Tuesday, Nov. 2, to learn more about the center and its efforts to assist not only the 1,000-plus population of student veterans and their families, but anyone coming to the Keathley University Center’s first-floor offices seeking help.
“Our annual Veteran Impact Celebration is an opportunity for our veterans, their precious families and this incredible community to reflect and interact,” said Keith M. Huber, MTSU senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general.
“Our Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center provides transition assistance to thousands of veterans, keeping with the intent of the legendary Charlie Daniels, his wife, Hazel, and son Charlie Jr.”
Proceeds from the fourth annual event will be used to provide education, employment and health and wellness assistance for veterans, service members and their families, said Lori Ogden, director of development and external affairs for the Daniels Center.
The event, sponsored by Hiller Plumbing, Heating and Cooling & Electrical and others, was billed as an intimate evening of songs and stories with Atkins, an Academy of Country Music award-winning singer and songwriter who performed during the event’s final hour.
“It is a unique privilege to partner with the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Center, an organization that prioritizes and ensures success for our veterans,” said Jimmy Hiller, founder and CEO at Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical. “This work is the least we can do for the brave men and women that have sacrificed so much for us.”
Huber, who spent 38 years serving his country, said the event is intended “to recognize and appreciate the service of our military, the sacrifice of their families and the invaluable reintegration support provided by the leaders and employers of this community.”
MTSU alumna, Nashville native and News4 WSMV-TV morning anchor Holly Thompson served as emcee.
The evening included a live auction with 40 items, featuring a Dell laptop home computer system; a premium Enterprise weekend car rental; an acoustic guitar signed by Atkins; and a wine tasting and Dammi Vino Charcuterie for six guests in the home of Tony Johnston, MTSU professor, fermentation science program director and veteran; and much more.
Daniels Center Director Hilary Miller praised center staff for its ongoing work and particularly its resilience and perseverance during the past 18 months of a pandemic.
“We just couldn’t do the work we do without the commitment of the Daniels Center staff and our volunteers,” Miller told the attendees. “We are a small group doing mighty work. I am so proud that last year during a time of unprecedented challenges, we never closed our doors! We remained open and on mission assisting veterans and their families.”
The Nashville Predators NHL club was the presenting sponsor, with Delta Dental serving as presidential sponsor, Censis Technologies as generals sponsor, and Vanderbilt Health and Tito’s Handmade Vodka as platinum sponsors.
Because of COVID-19, the event was held virtually in 2020. Atkins contributed a recorded performance for that event as well.
The Charlie Daniels Journey Home Project, a not-for profit organization that assists other nonprofits in securing funds to help causes that benefit veterans of the United States Armed Forces, has been a financial supporter of the Daniels Center.
About the Daniels Center
The Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center, named for the late Country Music Hall of Fame member and his wife, Hazel, serves student veterans and their family members, both virtually and in-person. The 3,200-square-foot suite is located on the first floor in the Keathley University Center.
The largest dedicated space for student veterans on a Tennessee higher education campus, the Daniels Center is a one-stop-shop to meet a wide range of academic, career and social needs. It is designed as a place where veterans can see other veterans, ask questions and receive the trusted assistance needed to transition successfully to the civilian workforce.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)