Supporting and giving back to those who serve in the military has always been a priority for the Nashville Predators organization, and on Monday, that truth was echoed loud and clear once more.
To begin Ford Military Salute Week, the Predators announced a partnership with Middle Tennessee State University and the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center to establish The General's Fund.
Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels, MTSU President Dr. Sidney McPhee, Preds forward Nick Bonino and Predators President and CEO Sean Henry all took part in Monday's announcement at Bridgestone Arena, with the intention of utilizing funds generated by the Predators and the arena to serve The General's Fund.
The fund is set to be managed by retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, MTSU's Senior Advisor for Veterans and Leadership Initiatives, and Dr. Hilary Miller, the Director of the Daniels Center at MTSU. The assistance provided by the fund will contribute monetary support to the MTSU military community's most urgent educational needs.
It's easy to stop and say, "thank you," to a veteran or active duty service member - but this will do so much more.
"This is our chance to really get the megaphone of our fans and our partners behind this great initiative to fill the short-term gap, the midterm gap, and most importantly, the long-term gap," Henry said. "This way, every man and woman that goes overseas or serves in the military, when they get out, they have an opportunity to pursue the education that they gave up when they decided to serve."
"Sports are important, and they're a great opportunity to get people involved, but beyond the excitement of the game, making a presence known in the community that you are in support of others who are in great need is also important," McPhee said. "That an organization like the Predators are reaching out in a real, tangible way is impactful. A lot of people say, 'Oh, the military is important and we support our military,' but this goes beyond the rhetoric. It is really making a difference in the lives of those families and the students."
A staunch supporter of the military and veterans throughout his life, Daniels has described his name upon the MTSU's veteran center as an honor greater than that from the Country Music Hall of Fame. His support for the center comes through The Journey Home Project, an organization he founded in 2014, along with his manager, David Corlew.
Already a Predators fan as well, Daniels was humbled and honored to have the support of the organization toward a cause that will make an indelible impact in the lives of so many.
Video: Preds announce partnership with MTSU, Daniels Center
"When we ask our men and women, who volunteer, to go and put their lives between us and our enemy, to risk their lives every day of their lives… How many people are willing to do that?" Daniels said following the press conference. "The least we can do when they come back is to take care of every need that they have. Regardless of whether it's a material need, if it's an emotional need, if it's a medical need, whatever it happens to be, we need to be there for them."
The Daniels Center at MTSU is the largest and most comprehensive veterans center on any higher-education campus in Tennessee. The center's mission is to provide transition services for veterans and their families as they return to civilian life after military service.
Now, with the funds raised by the Predators and Bridgestone Arena throughout the remainder of the 2019-20 season and beyond, those financial hardships many veterans face when attempting to complete their degree will no longer be an issue.
All parties involved feel it's the least they can do for those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and especially those who return to the great state of Tennessee.
"We can never do enough for our veterans," Daniels said. "We can never, ever overdo what we do for our veterans. There would always be more need than we've got facilities and resources to take care of, but we just try to maximize our resources. We try to reach as many people as we can, and we try to say, 'Thank you for your service.' That's what it's all about."
Those interested in making an impact can text "PREDS4MTVets" to 41444 on your mobile phone. You can also visit the MTSU Foundation website at MTSU.edu/Give.