Largest MTSU Salute to Armed Services event set Oc...

Largest MTSU Salute to Armed Services event set Oct. 27

U.S. Army veterans cross Jones Field, accompanied by loved ones and the MTSU Band of Blue, during the 2011 Salute to Armed Services/Veterans Day program at halftime of the MTSU/Arkansas State football game. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)

Organizers are preparing for MTSU’s largest Salute to Armed Services/Veterans Day event in its 31-year history.

Seven hundred to 1,000 veterans and active-duty military personnel are expected to attend the Saturday, Oct. 27, events on campus, which include an afternoon gridiron battle between MTSU and North Texas at Floyd Stadium.

“It’s going to be an exciting day,” said Marco Born, assistant athletic director for ticketing and marketing for MTSU. “It will be a busy day, but exciting. So much planning — eight or nine months — has gone into this by our committee.”

In addition to the morning Veterans Memorial Service, one of each year’s event highlights is the announcement of the Joe Nunley Award winner.

This year, World War II veteran Em J. Ghianni, 90, of Nashville, is the honoree.

Another much-anticipated part of the day comes during halftime, when the nearly 460-member Band of Blue pays a special patriotic salute to the U.S. Armed Forces: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

As each branch’s military marching music is played, veterans and active-duty personnel will cross Jones Field — some walking and some in wheelchairs, aided by family and friends — in a moving ceremony.

The day is filled with special events, including:

Em Ghianni

  • a 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Healthcare and Benefits Fair near Floyd Stadium’s Gate 3, presented by the Veterans Affairs/Tennessee Valley Healthcare System;
  • an 11 to 11:30 a.m. Veterans Memorial Service outside the Tom H. Jackson Building;
  • a 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. pregame picnic at the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame;
  • the 1 to 1:30 p.m. presentation of the Joe Nunley Award at the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame;
  • the 2:30 p.m. MTSU vs. North Texas kickoff; and
  • the planned 4 p.m. Halftime salute to U.S. Armed Services.

For the first time, a silent auction benefiting Toys for Tots will be set up inside the Kennon Hall of Fame. Anyone attending the game or the Salute to Armed Services events may participate in the auction, which will end at 1:45 p.m.

During the morning memorial service, veteran and Murfreesboro businessman Fayne Haynes will be the featured speaker. World War II veterans will then be honored by the planting of a tree near the memorial site. A bugler will render a salute by playing “Taps.”

“We are expecting our largest Salute to Veterans event ever,” Born said, noting the effort extended by MTSU’s Athletic Department to visit and personally invite veterans and staff at veterans’ facilities in Nashville, Smyrna and Murfreesboro.

He also commended primary sponsors State Farm, Barrett Firearms, Bridgestone, USAA and the National Guard for their role in purchasing tickets for the special guests.

Joe Nunley Jr. will represent the Nunley family during the halftime presentation of the award named for his late father. Joe Nunley Sr. was a U.S. Army World War II veteran who was an MTSU education professor starting in 1961 and retired as alumni director at the university in 1987. The senior Nunley died in 1993.

Also scheduled during the Oct. 27 salute are:

  • delivery of the game coin by a PackBot robot from the MTSU aerospace department’s unmanned aerial system program;
  • the game coin toss, which will be performed by retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Bivens, a two-time combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient, and Lance Cpl. Eric Frazier, who lost both legs while serving in Iraq and received a Purple Heart and other awards;
  • a performance of the national anthem by retired Sgt. Joe Wilson Sr.; and
  • collection of new toys at each stadium gate by the Marine Corps-sponsored Toys for Tots.

Born said local Boy and Girl Scouts also will be in attendance.

To find parking on campus for the Armed Services/Veterans Day events, a printable campus map is available at

— Randy Weiler (