Members of the community, students, area law enforcement and first responders and more all gathered together on the campus of College of the Ozarks this morning for the annual 9/11 Lest We Forget Memorial Ceremony. 

In 2015, C of O dedicated the ‘Lest We Forget’ 9/11 Memorial, which displays one of the last remaining remnants of the Wold Trade Center structure. Since then, the college has hosted an annual memorial ceremony to honor the lives of all those lost on Sept. 11, 2001. 

Remarks at this year’s ceremony were made by Retired FBI special agent, Vietnam veteran and C of O Patriotic Eduction Program participant John Ligato.

In his address, Ligato spoke on the concept of freedom and how these days many American’s take that freedom for granted and falsely assume that it’s something that will always be there.

“The concept of freedom must be passed from one generation to the next. It must be protected, but it comes at a price. There are some of you here today that may have to shed your blood in defending America’s freedom,” said Ligato. “Sleeping under a blanket of liberty comes with a responsibility." 

Ligato also spoke to recent comments made by Minnesota Rep. IIhan Omar, who described the horrific acts of 9/11 as ‘Some people did something.’

“Unfortunately that comment was correct. Terrorists who despise everything America stands for did something. They murdered nearly 3,000 innocent American’s,” said Ligato. “America was targeted because we are the brightest beacon of freedom in the world. Our freedom offended them. They said, ‘We killed them because they were Americans.’”

While addressing the crowd, Ligato also spoke of his time in Vietnam as a member of the Alpha Company, First Battalion, First Marines. He shared stories of the many men he witnessed risk and sacrifice their lives in the name of freedom and each other.

“I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by heroes. Now lately this word hero has been cheapened by society,” Ligato said. “A hero is not a football player who kneels at the national anthem, it’s not an actor and it’s not a thug who robs a convenience store. A hero doesn’t wear a cape, they wear dog tags. If your job requires you to wear your blood type around your neck, you’re on the path to heroism.”

Toward the end of his speech, Ligato turned and addressed the students in the crowd.

“You today are the new generation of warriors, but the ranks of patriots are thinning. Seventy-one percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are not eligible to join the military due to drugs or an inability to pass the ASVAB test. There are no such obstacles at College of the Ozarks, which may place some of you students in the crosshairs of American enemies.”

Ligato also encouraged students planning to go into a career in the military or law enforcement to recognize what it is that they would be defending in those positions.

The memorial ceremony also included short remarks from C of O President Jerry Davis, the raising of the 9-11 National Remembrance Flag and the scattering of flower petals around the Lest We Forget Memorial by School of the Ozarks students.

The Lest We Forget Memorial is next to the C of O Firehouse and is open to the public for viewing. Visit cofo.edu.

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