Approaching graduation from MTSU in May, Kenny Williams attended the first Veteran and Family Benefits Expo on campus because “my desire is to hook up with veterans.”
“This is a wonderful networking event,” said Williams, a disabled veteran who is the Rutherford County NAACP president. “People don’t know the services that are out there. Just the collaboration of the different agencies is phenomenal.”
Williams knows a veteran when he sees one. That’s because he is one, serving in the U.S. Army’s infantry division during Operation Just Cause during the invasion of Panama in December 1989.
The benefits fair, which attracted more than 30 veteran-friendly vendors and more than 120 former servicemen and women, was held Thursday, April 24, to bring information to the vets and their families. The fair was held on Court 1 of the Campus Recreation Center portion of the Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center.
Williams added that seeing a mixture of older and younger veterans seeking information was definitely a positive thing.
And Williams did not have to look far to see who earned the oldest vet award.
Jacob McClenny, 93, of Murfreesboro, attended with his wife, Bertha. Jacob McClenny, who arrived in a wheelchair, served in World War II in the Army Air Corps.
McClenny said he came “just to see what’s available to veterans. I’m just getting started, but I think it’s great.”
Emilee Ketron, Miss MTSU, attended, both as a favor to Malcolm Stallard, one of the event organizers, and because she has a tender spot in her heart for veterans.
As Miss MTSU, Ketron is involved in Freedom Fighters, a volunteer-based organization dedicated to serving U.S. military personnel.
“I was supposed to be out front greeting people as they walked in, but I wanted to be here (gym) for a few minutes and see all MTSU has to offer,” the speech pathology major said.
Among those in attendance was alumnus Terry Ethridge, director of joint staff, with the Tennessee National Guard.
Vendors included Veteran Benefits Administration, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Tennessee Career Coach, Tennessee Career Center and many more
“We wanted to show that any resources and providers are all in one primary location,” said Stallard, a student veteran who serves as president of the MTSU Blue Raider American Veterans Organization, or BRAVO.
Later, free food, entertainment and fun for all were available outside the Student Union. The Nontraditonal Student Organization sponsored this event.
Other expo sponsors included MTSU, VA VetSuccess on Campus, the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership and Pinnacle Honor Society
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)