Published: November 22, 2017
“It’s the veteran and not the reporter, who gives you the freedom of press; It’s the veteran not the poet, who gives you the freedom of speech; It’s the veteran not the campus organizer, who gives you the freedom of assembly; It’s the veteran not the lawyer, who gives you the right of a fair trial; It’s the veteran not the politician, who gives you the right to vote...That’s who a veteran is.”
This was the message delivered by Rick Ziegenfuss, City Administrator of Hollister, Missouri, and retired Army EFT to the 2017-18 class of the Legacy Youth Institute (LYI) who gathered during Veterans Week to learn how to champion America’s flag. Held at the Ballparks of America in conjunction with the weeklong Veteran’s Village held on campus, more than thirty high school juniors were in attendance to learn about the core value of patriotism and the ways that the Branson community honors Veterans and active military service personnel. While students learned about the attributes that make Veterans special, past and present military men and women were meandering around the campus, making new friends and enjoying the variety of events and services provided to them by various community members and business owners.
The day began with ‘hometown heroes’ – Branson Fire Chief Ted Martin and City of Branson Police Officer Tanner Muckenthaler – who provided equipment including a patrol car, a fully equipped fire truck (Branson’s new KME engine) and other apparatus for LYI students to explore. These public servicemen shared stories about the meaning of public service how the students’ efforts now will be important to their future communities and personal values.
While Administrator Ziegenfuss accompanied by Stone County Commissioner Dennis Wood and Brenda Meadows of the Veterans Task Force, imparted advice and wisdom to the students throughout the day, these community leaders were mutually impacted by the students. As Meadows stated, “I am so impressed with those kids. Not only are they polite, but they listen to what you are saying and put it into action. I am very impressed.”
Perhaps the greatest takeaway for student participants was the opportunities they had to sit and talk to the Veterans gathered at the event, undoubtedly making a lasting impression on these young people. They listened attentively to Veteran stories to better understand how, where and what these men and women did to serve their country throughout their lives, and now their service has shaped America for younger generations to enjoy their freedoms. Two of Branson High School Juniors shared about their experiences as they visited with Veterans on this day:
Brady Brashers said of his experience, “It’s really just an amazing experience to be able to come in here and talk to these men and women, who can share about what they have done for this country. They allow me to do what I do - have a job, go to school, and just live in America and be free. It puts some things into perspective.”
Samuel Lemley also found value in the experience stating, “Being here with all of these Veterans, it is very inspiring to see the things they did when they were about our age. Just to get to see the things that they have done for us, and [be reminded that] we need people like that in our country today. It is awesome to thank these people and get to hear their stories and be inspired by them.”
The LYI last met just a few weeks prior to this third meeting. It was a quick, but very important turnaround into session three during Veterans Week. “This week’s focus is championing our ‘Flag’. We wanted to give the students the opportunity to serve the Veterans, to be able to talk with them while so many of them are here in Branson [for Veteran’s Week]. It’s a great opportunity for them (the students) to get to serve lunch and get to experience what their lives were like as they served and sacrificed for our country. And the stories the kids come back with are incredible, it is amazing to listen to them and how their hearts were touched” explained Tess Rolf of Ozark Mountain Legacy.
Choose Branson is honored to be able to not only observe what makes LYI an incredible opportunity for area students, but to witness their growth as they progress through the program. If you missed our coverage of the first two meetings you can read about the LYI championing Family and Faith as well. Make sure to follow along as this year’s class makes their way toward graduation with ChooseBranson.com.
Learn more about the Ozark Mountain Legacy and its foundational application to the City of Branson Community Plan 2030 that creates the Branson character that is loved by millions of visitors every year at www.OzarkMountainLegacy.org.
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