MTSU Pays Tribute to Veterans with Annual ‘Salute to Veterans Game’

A group of veterans go across Horace Jones Field in Floyd Stadium during special halftime ceremonies Saturday, Nov. 11, at the 41st annual Middle Tennessee State University Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces game. The MTSU Band of Blue performed military-themed songs as they crossed the field. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — With lots of family looking on, retired Judge Ben Hall McFarlin received the annual Joe Nunley Award Saturday, Nov. 11, for his military service and establishing the first Veterans Treatment Court in Tennessee as part of the 41st annual Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces football game activities at Middle Tennessee State University.

“I’m truly humbled by this honor,” said McFarlin, who is from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and an MTSU alumnus. “I accept it on behalf of all who’ve served and the acknowledgement of the ROTC training (he commissioned as a U.S. Army second lieutenant in May 1970). “This is the highlight of my life. … Duty, honor and country (taken from U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s farewell speech to U.S. Military Academy cadets in 1962) is what prepared me in life.”

Trey Nunley presented the award on behalf of the Nunley family, many of whom were present for the ceremony, held between the MTSU Military Memorial and Rutledge Hall on the west side of campus. Joe Nunley Sr. was a World War II US Army veteran, an MTSU alumnus, professor, historian and former MTSU director of Alumni Affairs.

At halftime, the MTSU Band of Blue Band of Blue performed military theme songs for all branches in the parade of veterans.

Watch video from the MTSU Band of Blue halftime salute at

‘I was going to call him …’

The words from Middle Tennessee State University English Department Chair Steve Severn’s story resonated with Jerry Stewart, an MTSU student veteran and president of the Blue Raider American Veterans Organization, or BRAVO.

A story titled “Dude, Acknowledge, Move On” (from a brief but long-ago encounter with a hippy-looking California man) and one Severn has shared many times through the years, he added a twist when he spoke to 200-plus people attending the MTSU Veterans Memorial Saturday to kick off the day of activities.

The Student Veterans of America’s MTSU BRAVO chapter, with nearly 120 students, alumni and faculty registered, was highlighted during the event, held at the MTSU Veterans Memorial outside the Tom H. Jackson Building.

When Severn, a U.S. Navy veteran and BRAVO advisor, mentioned Matthew Delk, an MTSU student veteran who took his own life April 1, 2022, it hit home with Stewart, a Concrete Industry Management student who served in the U.S. Army from 2003 until retiring in 2016 as an E4 specialist.

“I was standing in the back (of the crowd), and I just tensed up when he mentioned Matthew’s name at the memorial,” said Stewart. “Matthew was in my English class.

“After I heard that Matthew had died, I remember there were signs that sent up red flags. I just didn’t recognize them beforehand. … The military trains us on how to get help when you see signs. I was going to call him. …”

The memorial service at the MTSU Veterans Memorial outside the Tom H. Jackson Building also paid tribute to the late MTSU alumnus, Danny Randolph, who died Feb. 15 in a helicopter crash near Huntsville, Alabama.

The activities, sponsored by the MTSU Blue Raiders football team (which defeated FIU, 40-6, in Floyd Stadium) and Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center provided fun, food and entertainment for everyone.

“The food (provided by veteran-owned Single Tree BBQ in Murfreesboro, Tennessee) was excellent. Will I come back next year? Yes, I will,” said Timothy Gross, 60, of Shelbyville, Tennessee, a U.S. Army veteran from 1983 to 2016, retiring as a staff sergeant. “I give it a thumbs-up.”

More than 40 vendors participated in the annual Vet Village, providing veterans’ assistance. Static displays were provided by the Tennessee National Guard. There was a special flyover presentation by the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and a special game ball delivery by the National Guard, which also provided the 129th Army Band called Freedom Wins and the Army Band’s Center Mass, playing rock and country music.