With the wind howling outside and the rain pelting the panes, Iâ€™m thinking it would be mighty nice to be back in Branson (Mo.) today. Their forecast is for 70 degrees and sunny.
But, since Iâ€™m not there physically, Iâ€™m going back in thought.
May I take you with me?
Iâ€™ve had two previous posts on our recent trip to Branson. One was about the great motel we stayed in and the other on the shows we saw. I need to tell you of a couple other places you must visit if you are planning a trip to Branson and I know of people from here who are packing as we speak.
Branson has a very impressive Veterans Memorial Museum that had its grand opening on Nov. 11, 2000. It honors those who served in World War I, World War II, the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf Wars as well as the cold war and other conflicts fought during the 20th Century. Itâ€™s a moving experience to browse the 18,000 square feet of art and exhibits. The walls are covered with the names of men and women who sacrificed their lives for us. More than 400,000 names alone are displayed on the World War II walls.
The exhibits and memorabilia which honor all branches of the service start in the World War I Hall and continue on in nine other halls.
The museum was the brainchild of a rural Nebraska man by the name of Fred Hoppe. Fred was inspired by the stories he heard from his father, Fred Sr., and the men who fought alongside his father in World War II. Along with designing, funding and building the museum, Hoppe collected and wrote the scripts for more than 2,000 rare military artifacts that he donated to the museum.
My breath was nearly taken away when I rounded one corner and there before me was the worldâ€™s largest war memorial sculpture.
Hoppe, also an internationally known sculptor, used five tons of clay to sculpt this 70-foot long, fifteen ton bronze monument which consists of 50 life-size soldiers storming a beach. Each figure is modeled after an actual combat veteran, one from each of the 50 states.
Naturally, I went on a mission to find the soldier who represents North Dakota. It took all of two minutes as heâ€™s not far from the front line.
There on a plaque by his feet is the name, Elton Ringsak. The late Elton was a World War II hero and a Grafton lawyer and legislator. Both Elton and his wife, Ruth, are buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Washington D.C.
I just had to stand and gaze at Elton for a while. There was intensity in his eyes and determination and valor in his expression. I moved on to search the faces of those behind him and I was deeply humbled. How does one ever adequately convey gratefulness? Iâ€™m not sure itâ€™s possible.
Bransonâ€™s Veterans Memorial Museum is a very impressiveÂ tribute to everyone who has served our great nation.
The museum also has a very nice gift shop and in it I found the perfect present for my husbandâ€™s December birthday. As Jim lingered at displays behind me, I browsed the gift shop and bought (unbeknownst to him) a silk U.S. Navy necktie. He served four years in the Navy, two of them in Japan. Heâ€™ll be surprised by this tie and I know heâ€™ll love it.
Hard Work U
My sister, Lori, who lives in St. Louis, told us that when in Branson we needed to go to the College of the Ozarks. And so we did.
It was founded in 1906 as a way to provide a Christian education for those who don’tÂ have money for college.Â
Itâ€™s also called, â€œHard Work U,â€ because no full-time student pays tuition. Cost of their education is met by required work-study programs with the remainder guaranteed by gifts and grants. What a concept! Students earn a B.A. or B.S. degree in 44 academic areas.
We drove through this beautiful 1,000 acre campus that overlooks LakeTaneycomo in the heart of the Ozark Mountains two miles south of Branson.
Besides all the classrooms, it has a fully-equipped sports facility, four theatres, a museum, two art galleries, a post office, fire department, hospital, print shop, dairy, grain mill, restaurant, hotel, bakery, snack bar, bookstore, laundry, power plant, meat processing plant and green houses, all staffed with student workers.
Students are assigned to more than 80 work stations and each works 15 hours per week while classes are in session, plus two 40-hour work weeks when classes are not in session. Supervisors grade the students on their on-the-job performance and grades become part of the studentâ€™s permanent records.
We stopped in at the college’s Keeter Centerâ€™s Dobyns Dining Room for lunch. When we signed a guest book in the lobby, we noticed that Ron and Donna Mattson, of Grand Forks, ate lunch there that same day. How fun it was to discover that!
We visited with several students â€“ some in the gift and weaving shops and some who were lunch servers. All spoke very highly of the work study program and the quality education they are receiving at Hard Work U.
Branson is in the Bible Belt, a term for an area of the United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism is a dominant part of the culture. Whether it was waiting in line at a restaurant, at shows, in gift shops, motel lobbies or in the market place (the shopping is superb), we met up with so many people of faith. Funny how faith comes up in a normal conversation in Branson, Mo.
Yup! Iâ€™m ready to go back.