Military veterans Jordan McCall and Malcolm Stallard, both military veterans, were stunned when someone they’d never met recognized them publicly.
Ruth Fanning presented each of the men with a commemorative coin Nov. 14 to honor their assistance with the university’s first-year VetSuccess on Campus program, concealing it before making the exchange during a handshake.
Fanning, director of Vocational Rehabilitation Services for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., attended an open house to celebrate the opening of the MTSU Military Center and VetSuccess office in Room 124 of the Keathley University Center.
“These two young men represent our future, and the future looks great,” Fanning said of McCall, a senior from Murfreesboro, and Stallard, a freshman from Kingsport, Tenn. “These two veteran students have stepped up and wanted to be a part of honoring other veterans.”
McCall and Stallard, who are student workers in the VetSuccess on Campus office, were taken back by the tribute.
“I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m honored to get it,” said McCall. “I understand what it was all for. She gave it to me and Malcolm for our work in getting the office up and off the ground.”
“I find it an honor that our simple helping out, people view us as more than a helper,” added Stallard. “All we’re doing is helping another veteran.”
Fanning also had words of praise for the university’s leadership, led by President Sidney A. McPhee. She acknowledged registrar Cathy Kirchner; Dr. Tony Johnston, chair of the Military Services Affairs Committee and an MTSU faculty member as well as a U.S. veteran; and Heather Conrad, the VetSuccess counselor.
“Your passion has led to the start of this program,” Fanning said, “and you are helping them (veterans) succeed in every step of the way.”
The VetSuccess office, now one of about 23 nationwide, provides veterans with a more supportive campus environment and easier access to benefits such as academic advice, financial aid, career counseling and peer support.
McPhee spoke of the “tremendous support by faculty and staff and other individuals in paying attention to how very important it is to help the men and women who serve, sacrifice and give their lives.”
The president noted that retention and graduation rates for veterans are higher than any other category on campus.
“We have a thousand-plus veterans who are part of our caring campus,” McPhee said. “We have the first VetSuccess program in the state, and we are pleased to have Ms. Conrad and her skills. We will continue to find ways to find support for our veterans.”
Jordan McCall’s father, Dennis McCall, performed patriotic songs made famous by Lee Greenwood and Billy Ray Cyrus to begin the program.
To learn more about the program, call 615-898-2974.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)