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Tribute to Valor Foundation: Approximately 70 Tri-Lakes area students going to Johnson Space Center

The Branson Community is joining together to welcome the Tribute to Valor Foundation as 72 Branson area students prepare to embark on the journey of a lifetime. The destination of the upcoming trip, May 19-21, is Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The immersive curriculum includes Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM), plus the unique opportunity to interact with Medal of Honor recipient, CSM (ret) Gary Littrell. 


Called STEM-Liner IV, the mission is a collaborative endeavor made possible through the support of Military Appreciation Partnerships (MAP), Branson Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District, stakeholders to include the United States Air Force Air Mobility Command, NASA, Johnson Space Center Houston and other corporate and individual sponsors.


The trip for Branson area students, plus several students from Little Rock, is Tribute to Valor’s (TTV) fourth one of its kind since the organization’s inception in 2018. TTV is made up of volunteers focused on influencing, impacting and inspiring students by encouraging them to ask themselves “Who Am I?” and to answer using the six core values of character represented by the Medal of Honor: Courage, sacrifice, patriotism, citizenship, integrity and commitment. 


With the guidance of TTV leadership, educators of several Branson area schools were charged with selecting more than 70 students to board two C-130 airplanes bound for Houston. Students will engage with astronauts, Medal of Honor recipients, scientists, educators and military experts.   

  • Branson High School - 49 students / 6 chaperones

  • College of the Ozarks - 12 students / 2 chaperones

  • School of the Ozarks - 4 students / 1 chaperone

  • Hollister High School - 3 students / 1 chaperone

  • Trinity Christian Academy, Hollister - 4 students / 1 chaperone

  • Students from schools in and around Little Rock - 4 students / 2 chaperones


Dr. Mike Dawson, Executive Director of Instructional Services with the Branson R-4 School District, was one the educators responsible for identifying the Branson students. "Selected by a committee of high school teachers, counselors and administrators, these students demonstrated an interest in STEM education and a commitment to pursuing a future career within that field," said Dr. Dawson. 


Students will spend time with U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major (ret.) Gary Littrell, who served in Vietnam. Gary is one of only 62 living Medal of Honor recipients and is the Chairman and founder of the Tribute to Valor Foundation. “Tribute to Valor selected Branson as the location for STEMLiner IV because of the region’s support of patriotism at the highest levels,” said Littrell. “We are looking forward to inspiring these young individuals. The freedoms we enjoy come at a steep price, and we owe it to our country to ensure future generations embrace character as an essential part of having a life with purpose.”    


With funding and other support provided by a long list of sponsors such as City of Branson, Branson Airport, College of the Ozarks, performer Tony Orlando and Bass Pro Shops, a key funding entity is the Branson Area Tourism Enhancement District (TCED). “Our Board believed this to be an outstanding opportunity for area youth in exposing them to the wider world,” said Dennis Wood, the Chairman of the TCED Board of Directors. “At the same time, the Branson Lakes Area very much supports our Veterans, patriotism and the values that build strong character,” said Wood.  


Another active supporter to making this trip a reality is Branson Mayor, Larry Milton. “For the kids, the rewards will be immense, both academically and personally. These young people will make memories that will resonate throughout their academic careers,” said Mayor Milton. “This journey is about inspiration and guiding kids to find potential in their futures.”    


The students leave Sunday, May 19, at 9 a.m. from Branson Airport, returning Tuesday, May 21, around 7 p.m. to Branson Airport. All are welcome to the send-off and the welcome home.    


For more information and PHOTO GALLERY on STEM-LINER IV:


For more information on Tribute to Valor Foundation:


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