Middle Tennessee State University’s Veterans and Family Center has officially opened its doors. The 2,600-square-foot facility, which will serve approximately 1,000 student veterans and family members, was unveiled in a special grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, November 5, featuring plenty of fanfare, including special remarks from country music superstar Charlie Daniels. Daniels’ 501(3)(C) non-profit, The Journey Home Project, donated $50,000 from funds raised at his 40th Anniversary Volunteer Jam at the Bridgestone Arena on August 12 to help equip the new center.
According to LTG (Ret) Keith M. Huber, Senior Advisor for Veterans and Leadership Initiatives at MTSU, a portion of the donated funds from The Journey Home Project have gone to create a state-of-the-art video teleconferencing room where veterans and their families will be able to conduct interviews with potential employers and host meetings with VA services around the globe. The remaining proceeds were used for the training of the faculty and staff of the new facility so that they may effectively meet students’ personalized needs.
“For over two centuries now, we have sent the cream of American youth off to stand between us and those that would like nothing better than to destroy us, and our way of life, and yet, in the face of adversity, incompetence and sometimes downright indifference, the men and women in uniform didn’t complain and have never failed to do their duty no matter what accursed corner of the planet it takes them to. My dear and patriotic friends we owe our veterans an unpayable debt of gratitude. Unfortunately, that debt is not being paid. I submit to you that our government has no more important business to conduct than making sure that those who fight our wars, all of our wars, receive whatever care they require, be it medical, educational or just good sound advice.”
“We are here today to make a difference in the lives of our veterans. We are here today to say that we the people are willing to help shoulder the load to help take up the slack, to accept the mission to help those who have given so much to transition back to civilian life,” he added.
According to MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, the new Veterans and Military Family Center at the university will be “the singular location on our campus where student-veterans will find everything they need for success, from scheduling courses and getting help with paperwork to getting help navigating the array of veteran benefits and discovering employment opportunities.”
“Most important, it will be a place for them to study, gather and meet and to get help from fellow veterans who will serve as peer advisors and sponsors,” McPhee said.
Other notable speakers during the ceremony included LTG (Ret) Keith M. Huber, Dr. H. Stephen Smith, professor in the MTSU School of Music, John Morgan, Chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, Dr. Russ Deaton, Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, COL (Ret) Many-Bears Grinder, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs, and Mr. Sloan D. Gibson, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Daniels’ closing remarks evoked passionate applause from the packed theater of veteran students, faculty and community members. He said,
“This center is dedicated to the purpose of cutting through the reams of paperwork, the miles of red tape, the meaningless studies and the bureaucratic crap. To supply hands on guidance through the maze of government assistance, pointing out the right direction and giving help on educational needs, mental health needs and just every day good advice by people who care and people who have been there and done that. Here we go, what can we do for you? How can we help? Thank you, God bless our veterans. God bless America.”