MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Reflecting on the Journey Award she had just received
minutes earlier during the 11 th Graduating Veterans Stole Ceremony Wednesday
(Aug. 1), MTSU student veteran Jackie Evans paused briefly.
“It makes me realize I was making a difference in the (Charlie and Hazel Daniels)
Veterans Center,” the Florence, South Carolina, native said. “I worked there two
years while I was getting my degree. I worked hard to serve others. It’s nice to be
David Corlew, who has worked with country music legend Charlie Daniels for 46
years and is a founding board member with The Journey Home Project, gave the
Journey Award to Evans, who was accompanied by her husband, Roderick, a
Marine recruiter in Brentwood, Tennessee.
It is awarded to a student veteran that has overcome significant adversity and
transitioned into an unsung hero for student veterans and the Daniels Center.
During the ceremony held in the Miller Education Center’s second-floor atrium on
Bell Street, the university recognized student veterans for not only their service to
their country, but for finishing their dream of obtaining a college degree.
Nine graduating veterans received their red stoles, which they can wear during the
upcoming commencement ceremony Saturday, Aug. 11, in Murphy Center. Twenty-
seven student veterans will graduate that morning.
Evans was active duty from 2011-15 in the U.S. Marine Corps as an aviation
maintenance data specialist, reaching the rank of sergeant with one tour in
Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. She majored in leisure and sport
management, will graduate with a 4.0 GPA and plans to pursue her master’s in that
concentration and continue working in the veterans center.
“For MTSU to be so invested — with the center and services (offered), it means a
lot,” Evans added. “It helps with the transitioning process.”
Deb Sells, vice president of Student Affairs and vice provost for Enrollment and
Academic Services, presented the Veteran Leadership Award given to the student
veteran that has demonstrated superior leadership, academic achievement and
selfless service to MTSU and the community.
Recipient Brooke Snell was unable to attend because of a Marine commitment at
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Snell served 10 years (2004-14) in the Marines as an electrician and ground safety
specialist. She deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring
Freedom, and achieved the rank of sergeant. She will have bachelor’s and master’s
degrees in leisure sport and tourism studies. At MTSU, she helped mentor student-
Aerospace professional pilot major Colton Gray, 27, of Port Charlotte, Florida, said
he “came here for school” after his U.S. Army stint. “I didn’t know anyone in
Tennessee.” But he knew about the program.
“The reputation this school has exceeded my expectations,” he said. As for the
veterans center, “It’s incredible. A lot of schools say they support veterans. Dr.
(Hilary) Miller (center director) will work day or night to take care of you and that
means a lot.”
Gray will go to work for Republic Airlines, which works with Delta, American and
United, following graduation.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee told the student veterans “the stoles that you
receive today symbolize the high regard that we hold for the noble decision that you
made to serve this country so the rest of us can live our lives freely.”
“In presenting these stoles,” he added, “we say thank you for your service and for
choosing MTSU as the next stop on your career path. You represent the epitome of
Red, White and True Blue. I look forward to seeing you in your stole at
commencement and awarding your diploma.”
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber, MTSU’s senior adviser for veterans and
leadership initiatives, told the audience “the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans
Center is a national treasure. We get calls from all around the world. We want to
assist in your transition (from military to student and from graduated student to
employed in the workforce). We’re here to serve.
Representatives from Waffle House, Mission BBQ and other businesses also
attended to potentially meet prospective job-seekers.
Suzanne Jene, deputy health system director for the VA Tennessee Valley
Healthcare System, and Jennifer Vedral-Baron, director of the Tennessee Valley
Health Care System, were among those in attendance. Huber also introduced Jill
Shaver, a local quilter who is part of the Quilts of Valor organization making quilts
For more on the veterans center, call 615-904-8347 or visit
MTSU has more than 300 combined undergraduate and graduate programs.