MTSU’s holds annual Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces, honors Blake Pickel

Photos and story by Stephen Thomas

The 38th annual Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces during Saturday’s football game started with a solemn remembrance of the troops who have died in the line of duty.

In the shade of a southern magnolia at Tom Jackson Hall speakers told stories, recited poetry and played music. They honored a recently fallen alum, First Lieutenant William Blake Pickel by adding his name to the memorial wall at Jackson hall.

Master Sargent Jay Farmer called the names of fellow student attended MTSU with him and then said, “…Pickel, William Pickel, Lieutenant William Blake Pickel.”

Silence punctuated each time his name was repeated.

Lt. Pickle died during a training exercise in September 2019.

According to the MTSU Veterans Memorial, the Cleveland, TN native is survived by his wife, Terra Pickel; two daughters Taygen and Addalyn Pickel; his mother Priscilla Redman-Pickel; father, Donald Pickle; sister Christina Pickel; and brother Christopher Pickel.

The event then shifted to the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame Lawn, where Mission BBQ served food to veterans free of charge and live music performed by the Tennessee Army National Guard band.

Tables were scattered across the lawn outside of Kennon Hall with information for veteran’s programs to assist struggling veterans. The programs ranged from debt assistance to health care and even teaching injured veterans how to fly fish.

The carnival-like atmosphere included games and military equipment on full display. Armored personnel carriers, robots designed to locate improvised explosive devices and a pair of helicopters touched down on the football practice field to deliver the game ball. The ball was presented by a joint force of the 3rd brigade combat team, 101st Airborne and B Co., 1-230 Assault helicopter Company Army Aviation Support Facility No. 3.  One helicopter remained for people to look at the other helicopter took off quickly and returned to base.

During the game, the MTSU players wore special helmets during the game replacing the standard MTSU blue with the colors of the American flag covering the flying Pegasus and MT logo on the side and the stripe running down the center of the helmet.

Veterans were given free tickets to attend the MTSU game against Rice and were recognized for their service throughout the game. At half time the US Army, Marines Corps., Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard each carried banners across the field with their family’s in tow.

The crowd rose to their feet and cheered for the veterans and their families.

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