Dana Lopez, CEO of Dogwood Ranch, was honored recently by media personality Glenn Beck with a national Badge of Merit for her work in foster care and with veterans issues. (Photo by Leah Greenwood)

OPINION |

In 1782, then-General George Washington developed the Badge of Military Merit. While most medals and badges were reserved for the officer class, this honor was for regular soldiers — to inspire them to behave virtuously, and congratulate them when they did.

“I shall make it the most agreeable part of my duty to study merit, and reward the brave and deserving.”

George Washington (1756)

Inspired by General Washington, media personality Glenn Beck developed a program to honor people deserving of recognition across the United States. 

Our community is lucky enough to be home to a recent recipient, local nonprofit CEO Dana Lopez, an Ozark resident recognized for her impact in the foster care system and veterans.

Nowadays, the selection process may not undergo scrutiny from the General of the Continental Army, but certainly receives far more nominations than back in 1782. Initially, Glenn Beck receives nominations through his website, and then narrows the candidates down to a select few finalists. Once the top three are selected, the public is tasked with choosing that month’s winner.

Unbeknownst to Dana, her friend Tim Hanna had nominated her for the prize, of which he wrote:

“They [Dogwood Ranch] take the toughest cases that come up. On several occasions, I would reach out to see if she could go out, and she would say she couldn’t because they were on suicide watch that night. Young girls have tried to stab her, have stolen her car, and have come to call her Mom. … She is an incredibly hard worker, no-nonsense, and full of life and joy. She is constantly making our community and our world a better place.”

Dana discovered she won through a surprise phone call live on-air from Beck on his show. Dana’s phone rings and listeners quickly hear the cherriest voice answer:

“Hello?”

“Dana Lopez? This is Glenn Beck, you’re on the air.” With a slight pause, Beck asks, “Are you alright?”

In somewhat disbelief and complete excitement, Dana responds, “What? Yes!”

Chuckling, Beck continues. “How are you?”

Laughing, Dana replied, “I’m wonderful Glenn Beck.”

COLUMN CONTINUES BELOW

Beck begins sharing with Dana about George Washington’s Badge of Merit and how it was originally given out by General Washington, in which the first Badge could be won by an enlisted man in the entire army. In fact, the Badge of Merit paved the way for what was to become the Purple Heart after a campaign by General MacArthur to bring back Washington’s award.

Glenn Beck is awarding a Badge of Merit made to resemble the Purple Heart, but awarded to ordinary citizens who do extraordinary things. (Photo provided)

Glenn Beck’s revived Badge of Merit is for ordinary citizens who did something which was of such great merit that would bring favor from God. It would be a blessing for our country if we could get on God’s side.

“You would be put into George Washington’s Book of Honor, but no one knows where there that is so I’m putting you into my book of honor.”

Dana replied, “I’m in awe and teary-eyed.”

Beck asked more about Dogwood Ranch and Dana shared without missing a beat:

“We believe every child is a child of God and deserving of family and deserves a fresh start. Our heart is to impact the next generation and teach them how to have healthy relationships … share on which relationships they should hang on to and will change the trajectory for all to come.”

Glenn ended the call with, “Dana, thank you for all you’ve done. God bless you.”

Dana and her husband Brian run a nonprofit called Dogwood Ranch in southwest Missouri. Their website provides a great summary of what service they offer to the community:

Dogwood Ranch was created by family, for family. We believe that everyone deserves the chance to live the life for which they were created. Our mission is simple: to provide support for survivors of trauma as they journey towards wholeness. This includes creating a new heritage for foster children and youth who have been abused and neglected, by providing them with safe and healthy forever families. We are also committed to offering a place of belonging for foster teens through individualized transitional living services. Additionally, we offer specialized support through our equine assisted counseling program, which focuses on bringing restoration to foster youth and other at-risk populations, including our honored military veterans and their families. Through the operation of Dogwood Ranch, our desire is to allow those we serve a new way to experience life, family and true redemption. Everyone deserves a chance to find their way home.

Dogwood Ranch is hosting their Fall Fest fundraiser on October 22. To attend or learn more go to their website.

Julie Higgins

Julie G. Higgins is a Springfield entrepreneur and founder of I Pour Life, a nonprofit that provides development coaching and curriculum to at-risk women and youth. Her mantra is: “Teach with your life.” Follow her on Twitter: @julieGhiggins or email her at: juliehigg@yahoo.com More by Julie Higgins