Music legend Charlie Daniels and Middle Tennessee State University’s lengthy association continue to make amazing strides.
With the unveiling of a plaque and a new logo for MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center named for them, MTSU formally recognized the couple and The Journey Home Project he co-founded to assist veterans during a Tuesday, Aug. 23, celebration at the Miller Education Center on Bell Street.
Daniels and his wife, who have been married 52 years, said they were humbled and moved by MTSU’s recognition, which included a presentation of MTSU football jerseys from Director of Athletics Chris Massaro and senior defensive end Steven Rhodes, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.
“It’s an extreme honor having my wife and myself named for the veterans center,” Daniels said. “I accept the honor on behalf of The Journey Home Project.
“We are just the tip of the iceberg. Thank you. I will carry this with me for the rest of my life.”
Daniels said the center “is where veterans can obtain so much support: health care, teleconferencing facilities, job placement, academics, government bureaucracy, and a therapeutic place to sit and talk with others. Any problems they have, they can get help at the center.”
In a related development, Mike Krause, the new executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and a U.S. Army veteran, told campus officials MTSU has received a grant of nearly $185,500 grant for the center’s proposal to increase veterans’ student success.
“MTSU has led the way in Tennessee regarding serving student veterans,” Krause said Tuesday in announcing THEC’s approval of the plan. “We are excited to continue working with Dr. (Sidney) McPhee and Gen. (Keith) Huber to ensure that after serving their country, veterans are able to earn a world-class degree and enter the workforce ready to succeed.”
Dr. Hilary Miller, the veterans center director, said the grant will fund:
- a full-time transition manager, who will assist with enrollment, prior learning assessment, supplemental academic counseling and coordination with the veterans’ employing agent.
- a graduate assistant for communications.
- student travel to conferences and travel for the transition manager/employing agent.
Hazel Daniels said the university’s acknowledgement of The Journey Home Project’s gifts “are such an honor — and it’s so close to home. We love the military. It’s a blessing having our names on the center.”
The couple lives in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, about 33 miles from MTSU.
Huber, senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, served as master of ceremonies for the event. He said Daniels and The Journey Home Project “provide genuine support, emotionally and financially, to establish an environment which provides the comprehensive answers to challenges facing transitioning veterans.”
“His support to the Veterans and Military Family Center establishes a space of trust and accountability similar to a military unit,” Huber added.
“Nothing can replace or replicate the bonds forged in combat, but student veterans will reach out to fellow veterans who share the commonality of selfless service and sacrifice. We all as veterans dream of finally coming home and continuing to serve as leaders in our community. This is the journey as we enter this next phase of our lives.”
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, whom Huber invited to the event because they serve together on the Nashville Serving Veterans Community Board, said “the work of the Veterans and Military Family Center changes many lives for the better, opening new opportunities up to veterans so they have every chance to reach their potential and continue serving their communities and their country in new ways.”
“Thank you to Charlie and Hazel Daniels for everything they’ve given to honor the sacrifices of America’s veterans,” she added. “The renaming of the center is a fitting tribute to Charlie, Hazel and their many contributions.”
McPhee said the Danielses “have given substantially to our center not once, but twice, and expected nothing in return.”
When he informed the couple of his decision to name the center in their honor, he recalled that “they were surprised and appeared stunned. They simply didn’t expect it. They were and are always humble, always gracious and always focusing on the needs of others, particularly our veterans.”
The president said he hopes the “tangible recognition of the two great citizens that will be displayed in the center will, hopefully, inspire others to follow their example.”
Journey Home Project board members David Corlew and Joe and Mercedez Longever also joined the Danielses at the event. Ed Hardy is the fifth board member.
The Daniels-MTSU relationship stretches across more than 40 years. Among the highlights:
- Daniels’ second Volunteer Jam was held in MTSU’s Murphy Center Sept. 12, 1975.
- The university presented him with the Joe M. Rodgers Spirit of America Award in 2009.
- The Danielses and The Journey Home Project gave separate $50,000 and $70,000 gifts to the Veterans and Military Family Center in 2015 and ’16, earmarking the first gift for computers and technology.
- MTSU renamed the facility the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center in April. Daniels and Sloan Gibson, deputy secretary for U.S. Veterans Affairs, joined other special guests when the center celebrated its Nov. 5 grand opening.
The 2,600-square-foot, $329,000 center is a one-stop-shop for MTSU’s approximately 1,000 student veterans and family members. It’s a place for student veterans to study, gather and get help from fellow veterans, who serve as peer advisers and sponsors.
Tutoring assistance and VetSuccess on Campus also are part of the center’s offerings. The center staff features six full-time staff, including a mental health counselor, and more than 12 part-time student-veteran staffers. To learn more, visit http://mtsu.edu/military or call 615-904-8347.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)