Having the opportunity to serve country is one of the highest honors one can achieve -- whether that service is spent during peace or wartime. The Freed-Hardeman family understands this concept well. "When I saw that FHU was beginning a program for veterans, I wanted to help set up a scholarship for it," an anonymous donor said. "I gave $15,000 to the FHU Veteran's Endowment Fund because my family holds veterans and people who have served in high esteem."
The FHU Veteran Resources Director and ROTC Liaison is Tim Roberts, a retired Major from the United States Army and Tennessee Army National Guard. Before his 20th birthday, Roberts had enlisted in the U.S. Army as an E-1 or private. He spent his basic and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Once his initial training was completed, he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for three years as an active duty combat engineer. According to Roberts, much of his time was spent in training because it was a relatively peaceful time. After his time at Fort Campbell, he used his veteran benefits to go to college, while he continued to serve in the Tennessee Army National Guard. He received his bachelor's degree from Middle Tennessee State University and master's from Lipscomb University and was commissioned in the National Guard after officer candidate school. Once the War on Terror began, Roberts took a full-time position with the National Guard, where he was assigned to positions throughout Tennessee. He later spent two 12-month tours in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom -- the first in 2002-03 and the second in 2005-06.
Through the Army ROTC program, Roberts hopes to give students the opportunity to use their Christian education to become strong, moral officers in the military. "Our country and military need strong Christian leaders," he said. In the future, he said he hopes to grow the program large enough to establish a stand-alone ROTC program at FHU. (Currently, the FHU ROTC program is offered in partnership with the University of Tennessee at Martin.)
When asked how individuals can help the FHU Veteran Affairs Program, Roberts answered, "It's important to continue to make veterans feel welcome on campus and pull veterans out of the shadows." Emphasizing the program's importance, he added, "It enables more veterans to have a Christian education. Veterans are already proven leaders, and they can go out into the world and make it a better place."
Private First Class (E-3) Hunter Schmidt joined the Tennessee Army National Guard as a "68 Whiskey" -- a combat medic. His reasons for joining the National Guard were having a secure financial future and reaping some of the benefits the guard offers. With that in mind, he plans to complete FHU's ROTC program and become an officer in the military. "I would like to end up with a star on my chest," Schmidt said.
Schmidt joined the Army National Guard when he was 19 and was studying pre-medicine at FHU. In January of 2019, he shipped out for basic to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. From Oklahoma, he went south to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, for advanced individual training. From beginning to end, Schmidt spent six months in training.
When asked what it means to serve his country, Schmidt replied, "It's a great honor to be able to do it. There is a lot of nobility and prestige that comes with it." So far, he has been through three drills with the National Guard unit stationed in Henderson, Tennessee.
After returning to FHU from taking a semester off for basic training, Schmidt changed his major from pre-med to psychology and criminal justice with a minor in Biblical language. He decided to take on the role of combat medic because Henderson's unit needed one. That unit's location close to FHU is also convenient for him.
In summarizing his thoughts, Schmidt said, "We need more involvement. With donations or involvement, individuals will help us grow our own program on the main campus." For Schmidt and other ROTC students, FHU currently offers MSL 100 level courses this spring but will expand to include MSL 200 level courses in Henderson in fall 2020. The MSL 300 and MSL 400 level courses are currently offered in Martin -- which means students will commute between Henderson and UTM for ROTC classes their junior and senior years. As the program continues to grow, however, that is likely to change. Transportation to and from UTM will be provided by FHU, but FHU President David Shannon and the administration are hopeful that travel between the two campuses will be greatly reduced by the time FHU students are entering those upper-level classes.
Private First Class Schmidt of the 278th Armored Calvary Regiment also plans to pursue a master's degree in psychology and become a psychologist and a counselor. In the future, he might open his own practice or apply his skills and education in the Army. He said he is still considering his options.
Jessica Jaggars joined the U.S. Army after she decided that she did not like college in Cincinnati, Ohio. She dropped out and enlisted to become a medical laboratory technician (68-Kilo). Her basic training began at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. She spent the first half of her specialized trainingin Texas at Fort Sam Houston and the second half at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Once her training was completed, she was stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia, as part of the MEDDAC. While there, she assisted in drawing blood, testing bodily fluids, performing autopsies on civilians and soldiers who were killed or died on base and other medical examiner duties.
After being injured in training, Jaggars was medically discharged with the rank of Specialist (E-4). She decided to return to school to pursue her bachelor's in elementary education; after graduating, she hopes to teach kindergarten or first grade. Currently, Jaggars is the president of FHU's Veterans Professional Development Club. The club helps the Tennessee Children's Home by replacing their flag and guiding youth who would like to join the military, holds benefit concerts and raises money for the endowment scholarship. Members also serve the community alongside the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Regarding the future of the FHU Veterans Program, Jaggars said, "I would like to see more involvement and support. As an older student, it can be hard to connect with people who are 10 years younger than I am but it's nice to connect with other veterans. I have experiences that makes it hard to relate with younger students."
The FHU Veteran's Endowment Scholarship assists men and women who have served our country. With the creation of this scholarship and support from the FHU Veteran's Program, more veterans will have an opportunity to receive a Christian education.
"We remember those who were called upon to give all a person can give, and we remember those who were prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them in the line of duty, though it never was. Most of all, we remember the devotion and gallantry with which all of them ennobled their nation as they became champions of a noble cause." - Ronald Reagan (Nov. 11, 1988).
Written by: A. Hancock - Community Engagement Coordinator