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College of the Ozarks dedicates The Missouri Gold Star Families Memorial

April 22, 2017

POINT LOOKOUT, MO. — In a solemn ceremony at College of the Ozarks, the lives of the fallen military and their families were honored at the dedication of The Missouri Gold Star Families Memorial at Patriots Park on the College campus on April 19.

More than 2,000 were in attendance — Gold Star Family members; College of the Ozarks and School of the Ozarks students, faculty, and staff; and members of the community.

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens encouraged Gold Star Families to remember their heroes as humans – as sons, daughters, husbands, and wives.  

“They wouldn’t have wanted to be above us. They would have wanted to be by our sides,” Greitens said. “Let us cherish their memories. Let’s keep them alive not only as heroes, but as people too.” 

Before being elected the 56th governor of Missouri last fall, Greitens was a combat Veteran and Navy SEAL, having served four tours of duty overseas, including tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. After coming home, he founded The Mission Continues, a Missouri-based non-profit that helps returning Veterans get back on their feet and give back to their communities. In 2014, Fortune Magazine named Greitens one of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.”

Greitens encouraged everyone to honor the fallen and their memories by honoring what they stood for 

“How do we find meaning in their sacrifice? I believe that we honor the fallen by living their values,” Greitens said. “We honor them by giving life to those ideals for which they served—strength and honor, courage and country. If we learn from their example of service and sacrifice, if we draw lessons from their dedication and their devotion, then that becomes the meaning of what they gave.”

The program included remarks by Dr. Jerry C. Davis, College of the Ozarks president, and Johnny Morris, CEO and founder of Bass Pro Shops. Funding for the project comes from the money the College receives as the charitable beneficiary of the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge Golf Tournament.

“Today we are all here, and we are so proud to say thank you and to salute all of you Gold Star Families—moms and dads, sisters, brothers,” said Morris. “It makes us all happy, with the input of Dr. Davis, that there will be a long-lasting, fitting tribute to what your family members have meant to our country.”

Davis challenged others to follow in the College’s footsteps. 

“It’s all part of the College being intentional about its patriotic goal and taking the leadership role, which we would like to see other institutions follow,” Davis said. “The whole country should be Patriots Park. The Gold Star Families that are here today have paid a special price for our freedom.”

The purpose of The Missouri Gold Star Families Memorial is to honor Gold Star Families (those who have lost immediate family members killed in their service to the country), to preserve the memory of the fallen, and stand as a stark reminder that freedom is not free.

After the Presentation of Colors, playing of the National Anthem, and the Pledge of Allegiance, remarks were made by the following: Missouri Lieutenant Governor Michael Parson, U.S. Army Veteran; General Terrence R. Dake, USMC (Ret.), former Assistant Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, Vietnam Veteran, and chairman of the College of the Ozarks Board of Trustees;  Ryan Manion, Gold Star Family member and president of the Travis Manion Foundation; Dr. E. Bruce Heilman, WWII Veteran and chancellor of the University of Richmond; and Hershel Woody Williams, WWII Veteran and Medal of Honor recipient.

As a surprise to those gathered, two T-38 jets from Whiteman Air Force Base executed a flyover at the end of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Manion was joined on stage by Amy Looney, also a Gold Star Family member. The two women have been highlighted nationally for their work with the Travis Manion Foundation. Travis Manion, a fallen U.S. Marine, and Brendan Looney, a fallen U.S. Navy SEAL, were killed three years apart, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. These two best friends and former roommates in the Naval Academy are buried together in Arlington National Cemetery ―“brothers forever.”

“I am so moved by your commitment to make sure those who fought for our country are not forgotten,” Manion said.

“This memorial doesn’t simply honor those families who have lost loved ones; it also connects us to one another because we have all wrestled with loss.

“To my fellow Gold Star Family members, you have born an incredible sacrifice,” Manion said. “I hope you come to know the joy, peace, and resilience that comes with healing. I hope you find strength in efforts like this, that memorialize our loved ones, and that you, too, commit to carrying on your loved ones’ legacy by channeling the character and leadership that they stood for.”

The sounds of “Mansions of the Lord,” performed by the College of the Ozarks Chorale and Concert Band, filled the air as the monument was unveiled. The following participants assisted in the unveiling: Williams, Lieutenant Governor Michael Parson, Heilman, Manion, Looney, and Greg McLaughlin, president of the PGA TOUR Champions Tour.

The audience participated in the Act of Dedication, followed by special music of the K-college combined choirs. Afterward, School of the Ozarks students spread a carpet of red rose petals at the base of the memorial.

As the ceremony came to a close, the College’s chorale was joined by a string quartet and vocal trio for a performance of “I Will Rise.” The crowd was moved by photos of 20 fallen heroes provided by Gold Star Families who were in attendance. 

The black granite monument features two sides. One side bears the following inscription: Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star Mothers, Fathers, and Relatives who have sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom.

The other side tells a story through the four granite panels: Homeland, Family, Patriot, and Sacrifice. The scenes on each panel are a reflection of each community’s Gold Star Families and their fallen heroes. At the center of this tribute is the most distinct feature of the monument, the silhouette which represents the loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom. College of the Ozarks seniors Katherine Yung, art education major, and Emma Carter, studio art/graphic design major, helped design the four panels.

The memorial on the College of the Ozarks campus is presented in cooperation with The Hershel Woody Williams Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman for his actions on the island of Iwo Jima in February 1945.

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