By Amanda French Clark
The Journey Home Project, co-founded by Charlie Daniels, has committed $50,000 to help equip the new Veterans and Military Family Center at Middle Tennessee State University set to open Nov. 5.
The contribution comes from funds raised at the 40th Anniversary Volunteer Jam, which took place on Aug. 12 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
Daniels and his long-time manager, David Corlew, co-founded The Journey Home Project as a non-profit organization to assist other not-for-profits to secure funds to benefit veterans.
“Charlie and all of the board of The Journey Home Project are excited about our new partnership with MTSU and the veterans at this incredible university,” Corlew said. “This center will be the resource that will enable young men and women returning home from their service to transition, along with their families, into their lives as civilians,” he added.
Daniels said, “We are anxious to see this center in action, a place where the many needs of our veterans can be dealt with by capable people who care.”
“Charlie Daniels is a great friend of our university and an inspiration to us all for his commitment to our veterans,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee. “This support by The Journey Home Project will help us improve the lives of our student-veterans and their precious families.”
“The 2,600-square-foot center, located on the first floor of Keathley University Center, will be the largest and most comprehensive post-secondary center for veterans in Tennessee,” said retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, MTSU’s senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives. “It will address a number of student needs, including financial aid, navigating veterans benefits and academic advising,” he added.
The center will have distinctive space for discussions, study sessions and will be staffed by fellow student veterans, who will serve as peer advisers and sponsors, according to Huber. There will also be a conference room for video teleconferencing and employer job interviews.
The university named Dr. Hilary Miller, a military spouse and family member, as center director earlier this summer. She will lead an experienced staff alongside U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employees Heather Conrad with VetSuccess on Campus and Veteran Affairs Coordinator Ray Howell.
Huber also revealed that a VA mental health counselor will also be in-house to help veteran students and their families cope with post-war traumas, such as post-traumatic stress disorders.
“The new center will encourage and facilitate the success of our veterans as they transition out of uniform into academics and then into future employment opportunities, as they strive to become leaders in the community much like they were in uniform. It will also help to answer all of their questions and give them a place to go where they’re talking to people with a commonality of background, purpose and focus,” Huber said.
Daniels has had close ties to MTSU for decades. 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 surprised Daniels in 2013 with a presentation on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry that formally announced the Charlie Daniels Scholarship at the Murfreesboro University, which was created in the singer’s honor through a $25,000 endowment from the International Entertainment Buyers Association.