MURFREESBORO -- From the midmorning memorial service to a picnic featuring the Dr. Joe Nunley Award to the MTSU Band of Blue halftime salute, the 34th annual Salute to Armed Services Game is all about making veterans and their families feel special.
All activities will take place on the MTSU campus, and most will lead up to the 2:30 p.m. kickoff for the Conference USA football game between the Blue Raiders and Marshall in Floyd Stadium.
Game tickets are complimentary for veterans and their families.
To find parking, the stadium and other buildings, a searchable campus parking map is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParking2015-16.
Since 1982, MTSU's Salute to Armed Services events pay tribute to the men and women who serve or who have served in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. The Blue Raiders want fans to join them in one of the nation's longest-running veterans' celebrations.
The timeline of Salute to Armed Services events is as follows:
- 10:30 a.m. -- Memorial service honoring Cold War veterans outside the Tom H. Jackson Building. Alumnus and retired U.S. Army Col. Mark Benedict will be guest speaker.
- 11:30 a.m. -- Veterans and families picnic on the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame lawn.
- Noon -- Silent auction in Kennon Hall of Fame, benefiting the Salute to Armed Services fund.
- Noon -- Beer garden opens at Gate 3.
- 1 p.m. -- Dr. Joe Nunley Award presentation at the picnic site. The 2015 recipient is Andy Womack, a decorated U.S. Army sergeant during the Vietnam War, MTSU alumnus and former state senator and State Farm agent.
- 1 p.m. -- Veterans Village opens.
- 2:30 p.m. -- Football kickoff.
- Halftime salute -- MTSU Band of Blue performs military fight songs as each of the U.S. military branches -- Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy -- march across Jones Field together.
The Nunley award, formerly presented to a World War II veteran who also made his or her mark in life after serving their country, now "will be given to a veteran known for service to others in the Middle Tennessee community," said MTSU alumnus John Furgess ('65) of Nashville, who helped found the event with Nunley.
"I was humbled to be chosen," said Womack, 70, who grew up in Middle Tennessee. He is the son of the late Dr. Bob and Elizabeth Womack, both MTSU alumni; Dr. Bob Womack also was a longtime MTSU educator.
"I am proud of being a veteran and have always felt community service was an important part of my life, and certainly appreciate the fact someone appreciates my involvement in the community," he said.
Womack's military recognitions included a combat infantryman's badge, Army commendation medal, Vietnam service medal and Good Conduct Medal.
As a member of the state Senate, Womack served as chair of the joint House and Senate committee on veterans' affairs. While chair, the legislature created the first State Veterans Cemetery off Interstate 40 west of Nashville and established the first State Veterans Nursing Home on the VA property in Murfreesboro.
Womack and his wife, Cherry, are the parents of David Womack and Dana Fiveash and have two grandchildren, Molly and Mason Womack.
The Salute to Armed Services event also features an annual Marines Toys for Tots drive.
Collection barrels for new and unwrapped toys will be placed at each end of Floyd Stadium and at club level. People also can place donations in Marine ammunition cans with a slot; the Marines are not permitted to accept money from donors by hand.
For more information, visit www.goblueraiders.com.