MTSU 'salutes' veterans, Gold Star Families

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Grand Ole Opry star Jan Howard speaks from her heart, telling the crowd gathered for the MTSU Veterans' Memorial service about the passing of her son, Jimmy Van Howard, in 1968 while fighting in the Vietnam War. (MTSU photo by Eric Sutton)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Middle Tennessee State University's 36th Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces events paid tribute to Gold Star Families Saturday (Nov. 4) in special ceremonies across campus.

Country music singer and Grand Ole Opry star Jan Howard touched hearts with her personal remarks to the crowd attending the MTSU Veterans Memorial service held outside the Tom H. Jackson Building.

Since 1982, as a part of the nation's annual Veterans' Day, MTSU has held events -- Veterans' Picnic, Joe Nunley Award, Veterans' Village and patriotic halftime show in addition to the memorial service -- all centered around an MTSU football game (this year against visiting University of Texas-El Paso), as the university recognizes the many heroes serving their country.

One of Howard's sons, James Van Howard, died in Vietnam in 1968 while serving his country. He had been an MTSU student before joining the military. Another son, Corky, also was serving in Vietnam at the time and brought his brother back home.

"This (service) helped to heal a little bit, but it also brought back memories," said the soft-spoken Howard. "Jimmy loved this school." While standing near the Gold Star Mother brick with her name on it, she admitted she was "glad the brick is in front of Jimmy's name (on the wall with names of MTSU war casualties)."

Howard said "thank you" numerous times ... for the opportunity to thank MTSU for inviting her and presenting the Gold Star Brick and to thank those who served. A woman with countless awards, she said "the Gold Star Brick means more to me than anything. ... I'm totally blown away by being here today."

As she finished, Dan Rogers, director of marketing and program development for the Opry, approached the podium and, unannounced, presented her with a replica of a plaque displayed back stage at the Opry. He said it was from Opry staff and fans around the world.

Country music singer and songwriter Bill Anderson, a member of both the Country Music and Nashville Songwriter halls of fame, introduced Howard. Grand Ole Opry star John Conlee sang "They Also Serve."

English professor Jimmie Cain read "To a Gold Star Mother" from the Veterans Memorial in Barnesville, Ohio. Professor Derek Frisby of the history department paid tribute to Gold Star Families and Vietnam-era veterans.

Members of the motorcycle group, Rolling Thunder, performed the posting to the colors. MTSU student veteran, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joe Gross, played taps.

Murfreesboro's John Hood, an MTSU alumnus (Class of 1954 and '74) who served in the U.S. Army from 1954-56, received the Nunley award, presented to a veteran for their service to their country and in their careers after leaving the military.

Alumnus and retired vet John Furgess (Class of '65), who co-founded the Salute to Veterans event with Nunley, presented the award to Hood. Nunley was a university education professor who later became alumni director. He died in 1993.

The MTSU Band of Blue performs military fight songs for the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy during a patriotic halftime salute parade across Horace Jones Field.

Earlier in the day, MTSU and university President Sidney A. McPhee hosted the General Officers Luncheon for all generals who have served and retired with that rank. Family members attended for deceased Brig. Gens. Edward N. Fletcher and Noah D. Daniel.

McPhee provided the keynote remarks and State Sen. Bill Ketron read a proclamation before retired Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber, senior adviser for veteans and leadership initiatives, unveiled a plaque. Retired Brig. Gen. David Ogg Jr. provided the welcome and general officer introductions for the Hall of Fame induction.
Retired Brig. Gens. Stanley H. Lillie of Alexandria, Virginia, Terry A. Ethridge of Smithville, Tennessee, James B. Burton of Clifton, Virginia, and James P. ONeal of Seabrook, South Carolina; retired Maj. Gen. James R. Myles of Huntsville, Alabama, and Maj. Gen. Terry M. "Max" Haston of Knoxville, Tennessee; and Lt. Gen. William N. Phillips of Madison, Alabama, were inducted into the Military Science Alumni Chapter Hall of Fame.

Lillie and Ethridge were unable to attend. Haston is Tennessee's 75th adjutant general with the Army National Guard in Nashville. Ogg is president of the Military Science Alumni Chapter.

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