INTERVIEW: Charlie Daniels Operation Yellow Ribbon

Operation Yellow Ribbon is a daylong symposium sponsored by Lipscomb University and featuring experts from the Center for Deployment Psychology (CPD), Challenge America, Not Alone and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The day was filled with clinical as well as non-clinical approaches to working with veterans and developing a better understanding of this unique population. Another focus of the symposium is to bring together university administrators, certifying officials and others who work with student-veterans to discuss best approaches in creating veteran-friendly campuses as thousands of veterans across the country are enrolling in universities through the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Lipscomb’s Yellow Ribbon Program offers eligible Post 9/11 GI Bill veterans and their family members an undergraduate degree tuition-free or a graduate degree tuition-free or at a greatly reduced tuition rate.
Capping off the day’s events, General Tommy Franks (Ret.) addressed attendees at Lipscomb’s Allen Arena as well as musical appearances by Charlie Daniels, Wynonna, Montgomery Gentry and The Grascals.

“Our goal is to provide an informative day for those who work with veterans at universities across the country to help equip them with knowledge and expertise to make their campuses more accessible and friendly for veterans. By partnering with the Center for Deployment Psychology we want to help educate university counseling teams so they can offer programs that adequately serve our veterans as they reintegrate home and adjust to university life,” said David K. Hughes, Lipscomb University assistant dean of students and director of the Yellow Ribbon Program.

I spoke with Charlie Daniel prior to his participation in Operation Yellow Ribbon and his involvement and personal endeavors for our military men and women.

Daniels: I am honored to be a part of this. I’m honored to be a part of anything that honors the troops, especially something like this that does it in a practical way. Something you don’t think about is educating and providing tuitions for our veterans, our people in service. A lot of times they go to war, they had plans of something they wanted to do for the rest of the lives when they get out of the military. Sometimes they receive an injury that will prevent them from being able to do that so they have a big change of plans. They are physically no longer able to do what they intended to do. It has to be a very confusing time. To have someone come along and say “hey, come get an education at a great university, let’s start there. You can’t do what you wanted to do so let’s prepare you for something you’ll like and can do.” That’s a big deal, a huge thing in someone’s life. We owe these people so much. When you go into harm’s way and do what these people do defending our country; everyone that goes does it for that reason. They’re not there for fun, there’s nothing entertaining about it. They go because they want to defend their country; they want to be part of something great. They’re doing that for us and they deserve our support. I am always glad to do anything that helps them out in some way.

BEV: Last year was very touching, not only for everyone that was up on stage but sitting out in the audience surrounded by all the wives and families. There were a lot of tears in that audience. What was one of the things you remember most from last year?

DANIELS: I remember two things I am going to mention. I remember the spirit of what you are talking about, to be in a hall full of people that were all there to honor the troops. 100% of the people that were there were there for that specific reason, to say thank you to the people that serve in our military. The other thing I remember is how surprised I was by what a standup comedian General Tommy Franks was. He was hilarious. I never heard him speak like that but he was a very funny man. He is coming back this year and he probably has some new material. I think he is worth the price of the ticket, just to see him.

BEV: Was that the first time you had met him?

DANIELS: No, I had met General Franks when he was in Tampa the same time I was. He came by and we went and played some songs for some troops that were there. I took my guitar and entertained them for a little while. He was just very down to earth, an old southern boy. He is 100% American soldier and a pleasure to be around.

BEV: If they asked you to be the spokesperson, what would be the one thing you would say to any of the veterans, anyone out there? Give me one piece of advice to encourage them to be involved with this?

DANIELS: I don’t think you have to impress the importance of this on anyone that has served. I think anybody that has served recognizes there are very special needs of people coming out of the military, especially the ones that have been wounded in one way or another. There are people that planned on going to school when they got out of the military but can’t afford it now. This is very important; it is a life changing thing, something that deals with people’s lives, their quality of life. To the regular citizens, I would say, you will never be doing the wrong thing by helping a veteran out. If the same kind of people that showed up last year would show up this year, I would be a happy man. I felt like a part of everything going on, not just what was going on on the stage, but what was going on in the audience. Everyone was in the same frame of mind, it was a special night to honor some special people and do some good for them. I say, let’s just do it again.

For more information about Lipscomb's Yellow Ribbon educational program that provides veterans a tuition-free college education click here.

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