A special opportunity awaits 30 MTSU student veterans, who are beneficiaries of community support sending them to the Monday, Dec. 30, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas.
Along with alumni and other fans, MTSU student veterans will attend the Blue Raiders game against the U.S. Naval Academy in Amon G. Carter Stadium. Kickoff is set for 10:45 a.m. The game will be televised on ESPN and broadcast on the Blue Raider network.
An idea developed by the MTSU Veterans Committee inspired a group of local citizens to step forward to pay the $100 per person Road Rally ticket price for the more than 30 student veterans.
Alumni, veterans and Murfreesboro businessmen Bob Lamb with EXIT Realty, Bud Morris and Andy Womack with State Farm and MTSU history associate professor Derek Frisby are among a group contributing nearly $3,000 to defray the student veterans’ trip expenses, which include accommodations, game ticket, T-shirt and travel for the 10½-hour, 725-mile trip from Murfreesboro to Fort Worth and return.
“This is a great blessing,” said Malcolm Stallard, president of the Blue Raider American Veterans Organization, also known as BRAVO. “A lot of people are excited about the donation.”
Stallard added that because of limited funds, paying bills and Christmas expenses, the community support is a godsend for his fellow veterans, who will only have to pay for food and drinks.
Stallard, a U.S. Army veteran and one of the donation recipients, said within 30 minutes of sending email and Facebook messages about the outing, five people responded. Thirty registered in three days’ time.
“We have a huge mixture between male and female, and we actually have quite a few couples coming as well,” Stallard said. He added that a few veterans said their wives told them, ‘Go ahead, you’re not going to miss this.’ That was a great comment to hear.”
Stallard said it was great to learn five military branches — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard — will be represented through the MTSU veteran population.
The BRAVO leader praised associate athletic director Marco Born’s “patience in allowing us to get back the waiver forms. He definitely was looking out for us and supporting us.”
After the MTSU-Navy Armed Forces Bowl matchup was announced, Stallard approached Born to discuss how student veterans might attend.
The university has maintained a tradition-rich military science and ROTC program in Forrest Hall since 1950. A VetSuccess on Campus department was added in March 2012 and registrar’s office Military Center added in recent years. Both are located on the first floor of Keathley University Center. MTSU made the G.I. Jobs Magazine list of Military-Friendly Schools the past three years.
MTSU students and student veterans will leave by bus at 5 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 29, from the Greenland Drive parking lot adjacent to Murphy Center. They are scheduled to arrive back in Murfreesboro at 2 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31.
Stallard said there is a waiting list for veterans wanting to go, and he hopes more can if funds become available. Others interested in going can inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The general public can order tickets online on goblueraiders.com or by calling 1-888-937-6878.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)