MTSU Student Vets Go Extra Mile to Graduate


Like many of her younger MTSU student veteran peers, Jemekia Young-Weeden has gone the extra mile to graduate.

Not only have Young-Weeden and the others served their country during a time of military conflict in the Middle East, they have striven to earn a college degree while holding down jobs and maintaining families since their time of service ended.

The university recognized nearly 25 of 90 student veterans planning to graduate Saturday, Dec. 10, during the sixth Stole Ceremony, held Monday (Nov. 28) in the Tom H. Jackson Building’s Cantrell Hall.

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Since May 2015, MTSU has honored its graduating student veterans with a formal ceremony in front of family, friends and university administrators.

Young-Weeden, 44, a criminal justice major, is a wife to U.S. Army Afghanistan War veteran Marquis Weeden and mother of three children ages 11 to 5 months. The infant, Aneika, was born June 23, altering her mother’s summer class schedule, which, in turn, altered her fall class load to the tune of 20 hours in order to graduate.

Holding up the red stole with both hands, Young-Weeden said “this means everything (to me) today. It is a part of me that has been missing for a while.”

“When digging in and studying — and all the craziness building up to graduation — sometimes you forget about yourself,” added Young-Weeden, who left the U.S. Army as a disabled veteran with post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, with the rank of E3 (private first class).

“You think back to basic training and all those things you remember doing that they taught you in the military,” she said. “The representation of them is here today.”

Young-Weeden’s job was as a petroleum supply specialist cross-trained in logistics and environmental protection.

Keith M. Huber, senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives and retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, and MTSU interim provost Mark Byrnes shared remarks.

Among those attending one of the largest stole ceremonies to date were Jeff Davidson, deputy mayor for Rutherford County; retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. and MTSU alumnus David Ogg; Brian James and James Ervin of Barrett Firearms; Chinh Brown, Steve Clayton, Todd Thiel and Fran Jones with Bridgestone and Tomeka Cain with the Veterans Affairs.