C of O Students Travel with Veterans to Vietnam

Press Release

College of the Ozarks sent 17 students to Vietnam, paired with six Veterans, from Dec. 9-22, 2018, traveling as part of the Patriotic Education Travel Program.

The trip was under the direction of Bryan Cizek, director of patriotic activities. This was the College’s fourth time to Vietnam, but its 23rd Patriotic Education Travel Program excursion altogether, with trips representing World War II, the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War.

During this trip, students and Veterans visited various sites of the Vietnam War, including Củ Chi Tunnels, Hỏa Lò Prison (Hanoi), the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Hải Vân Pass, My Lai Memorial Site, Chu Lai, Monkey Mountain, and numerous military and cultural museums and sites.

A doorknob on the inside

Two of the Veterans who traveled with the students, Col. John Clark and Col. Tom Moe, were prisoners of war in Hỏa Lò Prison, given the name “Hanoi Hilton” by the American soldiers. During their time at the Hanoi Hilton, Moe and Clark were cellmates.

Including his stay in the Hanoi Hilton, Moe spent over five years in captivity – a total of 1,881 days.

“I’m ready to go back,” Moe said before entering the prison again. “I’m ready to go in there and not be blindfolded, handcuffed, or shackled.”

While touring the museum in Hanoi, Moe spotted himself in a picture that was featured in an exhibit capturing the day that the American POWs were released. The late senator John McCain was also featured in the picture.

“It has been a blessing to travel with Col. Tom Moe and hear his stories,” said senior Sara Pitts. “One thing we will remember from Moe is his optimism: ‘Every day that I wake up with a door handle on the inside is a good day.’”

Clark spent nearly six years as a prisoner of war, including four years at the Hanoi Hilton.

“As we toured the prison, Clark explained how the prisoners persevered through the atrocities of their daily lives,” said sophomore Kyle Stevens. “The prisoners developed relationships that helped them to endure the physical and mental hardships of captivity. This sense of unity served as a source of energy and stamina that gave them strength — a brotherhood that continues today.”

Each student wrote a blog on the day dedicated to their Veteran, which was planned around the areas the Veteran served in. Read highlights from the trip in the blog: https://2018vietnam.wordpress.com/

Student and Veteran pairings

  • Veteran Tom Moe, paired with senior Lily Woolsey from Lebanon, Missouri; senior Sara Pitts from from Grovespring, Missouri;  and junior Rebekah Eklund from Topeka, Kansas
  • Veteran John Clark, paired with senior Kaylee Thieme from Chillicothe, Missouri; senior Courtney Hendrix from Owensville, Missouri; and sophomore Kyle Stevens from Minneola, Kansas
  • Veteran Gary Littrell, paired with sophomore Michael McGinnis from Nixa, Missouri; senior Miles Mrowiec from Spring Grove, Illinois; and sophomore Emma Bachali from Centennial, Colorado
  • Veteran Gary Wood, paired with senior Alex Weathermon from Marionville, Missouri; junior Annie Boyd from Huntsville, Arkansas; and senior Allison Steuck from Rich Hill, Missouri
  • Veteran Robert Smith, paired with seniors Jedidiah Friedman from Springfield, Missouri, and Braden Farris from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Veteran Don Browning, paired with seniors Cody Neal from Gainesville, Missouri; Christina Malzner from Russellville, Missouri; and Jason Good from Sparta, Missouri


  • Bryan Cizek, director of patriotic activities
  • Dr. David Dalton, professor of history
  • Chassidy Brittain, patriotic activities administrative assistant
  • Col. James Schreffler, assistant professor of military science
  • Lori Vanderpool, clinic administrator and patriotic travel nurse
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