President McPhee announced Wednesday that MTSU’s new Veterans and Military Family Center will be named for legendary country music entertainer Charlie Daniels and his wife, Hazel, according to a press release.
McPhee surprised the couple with the honor at a private dinner Tuesday night at his residence on campus. This comes after Daniels’ and his manager David Corlew’s veteran’s support organization The Journey Home Project donated $70,000 to the center in addition to prior donations, bringing the total to $120,000.
The project aids in securing funds for the benefit of veterans and to assist in their transition from base life to civilian life. The Journey Home Project was founded by Daniels, Corlew and board members Ed Hardy and Joe and Mercedez Longever.
“We are deeply touched and deeply honored,” Daniels said in a press release. “I’ve been blessed to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and, now, having a veterans center named after me.”
“This is truly special,” Hazel Daniels said in the press release to McPhee.
The 2,600-square-foot center formally opened on Nov. 5, and is located on the first floor of the Keathley University Center. The center addresses the needs of student-veterans, including academic advising and handling paperwork for federal benefits and financial aid.
President McPhee holds the sole responsibility for the naming of centers and entities within campus structures, as delegated by the Tennessee Board of Regents, and it’s a responsibility that he said he takes “very seriously.”
“The support of the Journey Home Project creates a legacy for [Charlie and Hazel] and [Daniel’s] family, where veterans and their families will have the benefit of having such incredible services offered at the Charlie and Hazel Daniels center,” McPhee said in the release.
The project raises funding from individual donors and fundraising events, including the Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam, which celebrated its 40th Anniversary Volunteer Jam in August at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
“The project seeks to assist veterans by partnering with organizations that do the most good, with the least overhead,” Corlew, one of Daniel’s business partners, said in the release.
Daniels has partnered with MTSU several times in the past. In 1975, the second Volunteer Jam was held at MTSU’s Murphy Center and in 2009, the university presented him with the Joe M. Rodgers Spirit of America Award, an honor presented to a businessperson who has demonstrated the best of the spirit of America through significant contributions in government, education, and/or civic and charitable organizations.
McPhee told the press that he credited retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, the university’s senior advisor for veterans and leadership initiatives, for his leadership in building the center and establishing MTSU’s ties with the project.
“The general helped this university build, in record time, the largest and most comprehensive veterans service center found on a Tennessee university campus,” McPhee said. “He continues to serve our nation by helping our more than 1,000 veterans and family members receive the support and services they have earned.”
There to aid student-veterans and their families are five full-time employees, including a mental health counselor, and 17 part-time student-veteran peer advisors.
Hilary Miller, a military spouse and family member, is the center’s director. She works alongside U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employees Heather Conrad with VetSuccess on Campus and Veteran Affairs Coordinator Ray Howell.
Aside from offices for faculty and advisors, the center also has provides a lounge space for informal gatherings and study sessions, student computers and a conference room for video teleconferencing and employer job interviews.
For more information about the Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center, visit www.mtsu.edu/military.
For more information about The Journey Home Project, visit www.thejourneyhomeproject.org.