Growing in agriculture: Veterans in rural America

Farm Forum

Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage are all words that embody the timeless values of military service. Every Veterans Day, we honor the men and women throughout our country that have worn the uniform in military service.

From my earliest memories, I recall the polished U.S. Army Airborne Infantry Wings pinned into my dad’s wallet, a proud reminder of his time as a paratrooper in Southeast Asia. In the fall of 2005, I joined my folks for their first and only trip to Washington, D.C., to view the Vietnam War Memorial. It was a particularly personal trip, having myself just returned home earlier that year from a deployment to Iraq. On that day, I stood back and watched my father find the names, one-by-one, of his friends who sacrificed their lives in service to our country…a vision that still stirs a great deal of emotion for me.

In the history of our country, many veterans have come from rural America. From our nation’s earliest colonial days of the Minute Men – who would drop their plow, pick up a rifle, and be ready within a minute to march in defense of our young nation – to the many generations of veterans today, America’s sons and daughters have served. With over 75,000 veterans living in South Dakota today, our state has a proud history of service.

I recently met a World War II veteran, Earnest White of Huron. Earnest had a background with firearms from his upbringing in rural Nebraska, so when he was recruited to the U.S. Army he was trained as a gun mechanic. He was sent to the beaches of Normandy on June 7, 1944, the day after D-Day, and served our country for two years during WWII. Earnest came home from Europe and had a successful post-war business of drilling wells for farm and ranch families. He eventually settled down in Huron where he raised a family and continued to work as a hired hand for local farmers.

The story of Earnest White is much like that of other South Dakotans who left their small towns and family farms for military service. Many generations of military men and women have served their country and then returned to their rural communities to start businesses, farm with their family or work in jobs in the agricultural field. The loyalty, duty and integrity of military service are the same values of rural America.

I thank Earnest White for sharing his story with me. I am grateful to all our veterans, and I salute those who continue to serve our great country today – thank you for your service.