A recognition of MTSU veterans who served — including five who died — in World War I, the legacy from that war, a veterans’ picnic and the presentation of the Dr. Joe Nunley Award to alumnus Jeff Davidson highlighted the pregame activities surrounding the 37th Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces at various campus venues.
The events were among several tied into the nationally televised MTSU-Western Kentucky Conference USA football game Friday, Nov. 2, in Floyd Stadium.
MTSU continued its strong tradition of honoring veterans and active-duty military personnel that began in 1982. Events are held around the national observance of Veterans Day, which will be Sunday, Nov. 11.
Davidson, an Eagleville, Tennessee, resident, was the MTSU committee’s choice to receive the award named for Nunley, veteran and longtime director of alumni relations at the university. He is an alumnus — a member of the Class of 1985 — and retired U.S. Army colonel who earned a bachelor’s degree in history.
“There are more people better qualified than me,” said Davidson, who retired earlier this year as deputy mayor of Rutherford County. “Men like John Hood (the 2017 Nunley recipient), Andy Womack (2015 recipient), Bud Morris and Bob Lamb (2016 recipients) and Don Witherspoon (who served with the U.S. Marine Corps) … I hold in high esteem.”
Davidson, an armor officer with more than 30 years in the Army, served in a variety of command and leadership positions. He had multiple combat tours, including Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Operation Joint Endeavor/Guard in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Dr. Derek Frisby, faculty coordinator and lecturer in the College of Liberal Arts, celebrated the heritage of the five fallen MTSU students from more than a century ago and the lasting legacy from World War I.
The five who died included 1st Lt. Robert Shearer Brown, killed in action Oct. 4 1918; Sgt. Chester Fowler Elrod, killed in action Sept. 29, 1918; Pvt. George Grady Hightower, killed in action Sept. 29, 1918; Pvt. Sydney Houston “Syd” Brown, who died in a rail transportation accident Jan. 1, 1918; and William J. McConnell, who was with the American Red Cross, who died in 1918.
Frisby said Veterans Day, the story of Tennessee hero Alvin C. York, ROTC programs and the G.I. Bill all came out of World War I.
Five members of Sgt. Chester Elrod’s family attended: Beth Scofield of Birmingham, Alabama; and Karen Elrod Dismukes, Susan Creagh, David Elrod and his son Clayton Elrod, all from Nashville.
The Rolling Thunder organization performed the posting of the colors, David Andrzejewski played reveille and taps, English professor Jimmie Cain read the poem “The Soldier” by Rupert Brooke, College of Liberal Arts Associate Dean Stephen Smith sang the national anthem, and political science associate professor Robb McDaniel provided the welcome and introduced Frisby.
A group of 22 Fort Campbell, Kentucky, soldiers, who flew in by helicopter, were dressed in full combat gear with lights on their helmets and holding weapons as they were on their mission, delivered the game ball to officials.
The halftime salute featured the Band of Blue and the WKU band alternating performing fight songs for the five branches as veterans from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy walked across Horace Jones Field.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)