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MTSU Faculty-Staff Veterans Stole Ceremony taps in...

MTSU Faculty-Staff Veterans Stole Ceremony taps into emotions of serving country

A red stole rests on the back of a chair in the Sam H. Ingram Building’s MT Center before the annual MTSU Faculty-Staff Veterans Stole Ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 10. The stoles were given to MTSU faculty and staff who served or continue to serve in any U.S. military branches. They can be worn during any future MTSU commencement ceremonies. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Pete Neff became emotional, reflecting on his military service as a U.S. Air Force pilot — 137 combat missions and 834 flight hours supporting U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) in Vietnam.

Now an assistant professor in the MTSU Aerospace Department, Neff shared briefly about his military career to those attending the Faculty-Staff Stole Ceremony hosted by the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center Wednesday, Nov. 10, in the Ingram Building’s MT Center, one day before Veterans Day.

Pete Neff,, left, a U.S. Air Force veteran and MTSU Aerospace faculty member, shares about his 137 combat missions in support of Special Forces (Green Berets) during the Vietnam War Wednesday, Nov. 10, during the Daniels Center’s Faculty-Staff Veterans Stole Ceremony. Ten veterans and currently enlisted military personnel were recognized in the ceremony in the Ingram Building’s MT Center. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Pete Neff,, left, a U.S. Air Force veteran and MTSU Aerospace faculty member, shares about his 137 combat missions in support of Special Forces (Green Berets) during the Vietnam War Wednesday, Nov. 10, during the Daniels Center’s Faculty-Staff Veterans Stole Ceremony. Ten veterans and currently enlisted military personnel were recognized in the ceremony in the Ingram Building’s MT Center. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

The event celebrates faculty and staff who served or are currently serving in armed forces. The 10 honorees received a red stole they can wear at future MTSU commencements or stole ceremonies.

“I came back from Vietnam in October of 1970 — so that was 51 years ago — and this is really the first time when people are even slightly interested in what I did in the military, except for my family,” he said after the event.

Neff spent 29 years in active, reserve and Air National Guard service. He also spent 32 years with a major airline and 11 with the Federal Aviation Administration.

“I’m a member of another organization who is recognizing those of us who served (in Vietnam) as well. But this is the first time in 50 years that anybody even cared. It’s actually emotional,” he added. Neff shed tears as he recalled an “era when we were spit on when we came back,” a reference to the plunge in public support and increase in distrust of government as the controversial war dragged on and increasingly appeared to be unwinnable as death tolls mounted.

Keith M. Huber, right, MTSU senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, welcomes the 10 honorees and others guests attending the Daniels Center Faculty-Staff Veterans Stole Ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 10, in the Ingram Building’s MT Center. The Daniels Center holds the event during the week of Veterans Day (Nov. 11) and MTSU Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces football game activities, this year scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 13. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Keith M. Huber, right, MTSU senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, welcomes the 10 honorees and others guests attending the Daniels Center Faculty-Staff Veterans Stole Ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 10, in the Ingram Building’s MT Center. The Daniels Center holds the event during the week of Veterans Day (Nov. 11) and MTSU Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces football game activities, this year scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 13. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

U.S. Army veteran Christy Sigler, an attorney who is MTSU’s assistant to the president for Institutional Equity and Compliance, spoke to the group.

“Life presents you with a lot of opportunities and you have to be willing to check those out, see if it’s something that works for you and sometimes make a hard decision to do something different than what you thought you were going to do,” she said of her message.

“And that everybody needs help sometimes, so whatever it’s for, whether it’s career advice or something personal — mental health needs — it’s good to ask for help,” Sigler added.

U.S. Army veteran Christy Sigler, who is assistant to the president for Institutional Equity and Compliance at MTSU, speaks to veterans and active military personnel recognized during the MTSU Faculty-Staff Stole Ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 10, in the Ingram Building’s MT Center. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

U.S. Army veteran Christy Sigler, who is assistant to the president for Institutional Equity and Compliance at MTSU, speaks to veterans and active military personnel recognized during the MTSU Faculty-Staff Stole Ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 10, in the Ingram Building’s MT Center. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

In addition to Neff, five other faculty-staff veterans were recognized, including Michelle Brazeal (U.S. Army) from Social Work; Daniel Eschenfelder (Army) from Journalism/Strategic Media; Anthony Newsome (Army) from Biology; Sherry Schafer (Army) from the Tennessee STEM Education Center; and Ashley Valanzola (U.S. Navy) from the History Department.

Daniels Veterans Center logoFour Military Science ROTC faculty were recognized, including Dakota Eldridge, Daniel Lowe, Ben Sweeney and Samantha Valentine.

Hilary Miller, director of the Daniels Center, introduced the 10 honorees.

Keith M. Huber, senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives and retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, provided the welcome, prayer, introductions and reflections during the ceremony.

For more information about the Daniels Center, home to 1,000-plus student veterans and family members and a one-stop-shop to assist with veterans’ benefits, future employment and more, call 615-904-8347.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

A red stole rests on the back of a chair in the Sam H. Ingram Building’s MT Center before the annual MTSU Faculty-Staff Veterans Stole Ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 10. The stoles were given to MTSU faculty and staff who served or continue to serve in any U.S. military branches. They can be worn during any future MTSU commencement ceremonies. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

A red stole rests on the back of a chair in the Sam H. Ingram Building’s MT Center before the annual MTSU Faculty-Staff Veterans Stole Ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 10. The stoles were given to MTSU faculty and staff who served or continue to serve in any U.S. military branches. They can be worn during any future MTSU commencement ceremonies. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)


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