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Evangel students attend patriotic forum at College of the Ozarks

Published on Apr 20, 2012 by Jennifer Hall

PHOTO CAPTION: Evangel students with Holocaust survivor Dr. Judita Hruza. Her family was the only Jewish family in her village at the time of the Nazi invasion into Czechoslovakia.



SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Three students represented Evangel University at the 2012 Patriotic Forum sponsored by the College of the Ozarks, April 10-13.

Those students who participated include the following:

  • Megan Ahrens, sophomore history and government double major from Staunton, Ill.
  • Jonathan Fleming, sophomore government major from North Bloomfield, Ohio
  • Javier Rodriguez, sophomore government major from Laredo, Texas

The forum unites students from all major U.S. military academies and from universities across America for a time of interaction and education on pertinent current national issues.

Evangel joined Southwest Baptist University and Texas A&M as the selected non-military schools invited to participate.

During the forum, students were given opportunity to hear renowned national leaders from the past and present who provide examples of wisdom and insight through their compelling life experiences. Special speakers also spent time with the students, meeting with them and answering questions.

The theme for the forum was overcoming adversity. The guest speakers were chosen based on how their life stories exemplify this theme and how they have turned adversity into opportunity for growing leadership skills.

World War II hero featured

This year’s guest of honor was 95-year-old Louis Zamperini, born of Italian immigrants in New York in 1920. He served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II and was shot down over the Pacific Ocean during the war.

Zamperini survived 47 days, drifting 2,000 miles in a life raft. He was then captured by the Japanese and was tortured as a prisoner of war for the duration of the conflict.

His story has been documented in the best-selling book Unbroken: A World War II story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Laura Hillenbrand.

Additional speakers included the following:

  • Colonel Donald Ballard –  the only living U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor recipient in the state of Missouri
  • Holocaust survivor Dr. Judita Hruza – Her family was the only Jewish family in her village at the time of the Nazi invasion into Czechoslovakia.
  • Dr. Brad Crain – He grew up as an orphan but became a Fulbright Scholar, obtaining a doctorate from Harvard University. He then went on to become president of Berea College.