Like many of her younger MTSU student veteran peers, Jemekia Young-Weeden has gone the extra mile to graduate.
Not only have Young-Weeden and her fellow veterans served their country during military conflict in the Middle East, they’ve worked to earn college degrees while holding down jobs and caring for their families since their active duty ended.
The university recognized nearly 25 of the 90 student veterans planning to graduate Saturday, Dec. 10, during the sixth Graduating Veterans Stole Ceremony, held Monday, Nov. 28, in the Tom H. Jackson Building’s Cantrell Hall.
Since May 2015, MTSU has honored its graduating student veterans with a formal ceremony with family, friends and university administrators. Each graduating veteran receives a special red stole to wear with his or her gown at the commencement ceremony to recognize academic achievement.
Young-Weeden, 44, a criminal justice major, is married to U.S. Army Afghanistan War veteran Marquis Weeden and is the mother of three children between 5 months and 11 years old. Baby Aneika was born June 23, altering her mother’s summer class schedule and leading to a 20-hour fall 2016 class load for Young-Weeden in order to graduate.
“This means everything today,” Young-Weeden said, holding up the red stole with both hands. “It is a part of me that has been missing for a while.
“When digging in and studying — and all the craziness building up to graduation — sometimes you forget about yourself. You think back to basic training and all those things you remember doing that they taught you in the military. The representation of them is here today.”
During her military service, Young-Weeden was a petroleum supply specialist and was cross-trained in logistics and environmental protection. She left the U.S. Army as an E3, or private first class, disabled veteran with post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Keith M. Huber, senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives at MTSU and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, and Dr. Mark Byrnes, MTSU interim provost, spoke during the ceremony.
Among those attending one of the largest stole ceremonies to date were Jeff Davidson, deputy mayor for Rutherford County; retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. David Ogg, an MTSU alumnus; Brian James and James Ervin of Barrett Firearms; Chinh Brown, Steve Clayton, Todd Thiel and Fran Jones of Bridgestone; and Tomeka Cain of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Nashville Regional Office.
MTSU student veterans and their families are served by the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center on campus. For more about the center’s services, call 615-904-8347 or visit http://mtsu.edu/military.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)