Middle Tennessee State University alumnus Morris Summers and his older brother Felix once again found “their spot” at the annual MTSU Veterans Memorial Service Nov. 22.
It was in seats near five Summers family memorial bricks placed near others at the Veterans Memorial site outside the Tom H. Jackson Building on the west side of campus between Kirksey Old Main and Middle Tennessee Boulevard.
The memorial service was just one of a number of activities for veterans and men and women currently serving in the military as part of the 33rd annual Salute to Armed Services Veterans Day events sponsored by MTSU Athletics and the Department of Military Science.
In addition to their own bricks at the site, others purchased for family members included one for their father, S. Felix Summers; one for Morris Summers’ son, Norman C. Summers; and one for Morris Summers’ father-in-law, George C. Hixson.
“We’ve been coming almost every year,” said Morris Summers, a 1973 graduate who earned his degree from the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience. “We came 33 years ago to the first veterans program, and walked across the (Horace Jones) field that day. We have not missed more than three of these.”
“I think it’s awesome,” Morris Summers said of the ceremony. “I was telling Dr. (Sidney A.) McPhee that the programs they have now are excellent for guys and women coming back to school or just now starting school.”
One of the newer programs is Vet Success on Campus. MTSU, which has a student-veteran population of around 1,000 and their dependents, has one of the highest-rated veteran-friendly programs in the nation.
Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder spoke from the heart and personal experience in a message about veterans.
She spoke of the “amazing sacrifices service members and their families have to go through.”
Grinder’s daughter-in-law, Billie Jean Grinder, a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, was killed in Iraq Feb. 21, 2010, a short time before her deployment was to end.
“Not everyone can be in the military,” Grinder said, “but everyone can support active-duty personnel and veterans.” She urged the audience of nearly 100 people to not “miss one opportunity to thank a person in uniform. To those of you here today in uniform, I salute you.”
The state leader told the audience “MTSU has been a great partner in helping veteran students.”
Those attending the 30-minute ceremony heard Grinder’s message about suicide by veterans.
“Tennessee’s lost far too many veterans to suicide,” she said. “The trend’s going upward. Something’s wrong with that.”
During the service, MTSU Veterans Committee members held a tree-planting, this year for families of veterans.
At the Dr. Joe Nunley Memorial Award presentation during the veterans’ picnic adjacent to the Rose and Emmett Kennon Sports Hall of Fame, MTSU alumnus John Furgess (Class of ’65) of Nashville recognized all World War II veterans with the 25th presentation of the honor.
Past recipients Fayne Haynes of Murfreesboro and Ed Smith of Brentwood, Tennessee, were among the World War II veterans attending.
In 2015 and going forward, veterans from the Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be nominated for the honor.
Furgess presented Murfreesboro’s Joe “Joey” Nunley Jr. with the 2014 Dr. Joe Nunley Sr. Memorial Award for Service to Others.
“I knew something was going to happen. I didn’t know exactly,” said Nunley Jr., telling the crowd “genetics” played a role in his receiving the trophy.
“This starts a new chapter of this award, and this is a way to do it.”
The events were a prelude to the MTSU-Florida Atlantic University football game in Floyd Stadium. The vets and active-duty personnel were recognized during the game and halftime
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)