Every day is Veterans Day for Ivan Stoltzfus of Honey Brook, who left Oct. 15 on his cross-country tractor ride Across America for Wounded Heroes 2016. His goal is to raise $1 million for veterans, especially those diagnosed with PTSD.
Stoltzfus sent this update of his journey in a recent email:
“This Veterans Day I ponder how moved I’ve been during this trip honoring America’s veterans. For me every day is Veterans Day.
I’ve traveled over a thousand miles and am feeling the love in Georgia as I settle in for the night, dreams of yesterday flood back.
Red Rooster, Teddy, Johnabilt (my retrofitted 1948 Model A tractor with a Peterbilt cab) pulling Camper with Smiley on the back have been “putt putting ” sometimes reaching full speed 15mph on the road headed to Florida.
Every morning that I crawl into the tractor, I am reminded ‘someone was willing to pay the ultimate price or suffer wounds so I could be free’ as I look at pictures of service members given to me by their parents or loved ones. Having a purple heart hanging in the cab reminds me freedom is not free.
About that Purple Heart, let’s back up.”
Stoltzfus was invited by his friend Eli, a fellow auctioneer, to set up at the Greensboro Classic Auto Auction in South Carolina to raise money for the cause. He set up a stand. There’s lots of action and media coverage. They ask him to have a care package ready for a charity auction at noon.
Manager says, “You’re an auctioneer. Sell a care package with some hats, t-shirts and one of your books, “A Dream to Reality.”
They say a prayer and someone sings the National Anthem before the auction starts. The manger tell him to be ready and to keep his speech to less than a minute.
“What I am going to say in that short of time?” I’m thinking, writes Stoltzfus.
“I decide to take your Purple Heart with me Jeremy. (Jeremy Jackson Wounded Veteran gave me his Purple Heart in 2014).
Stoltzfus speaks on the importance of our veterans who are keeping us free and bring in the fact that he feels led to make this trip to help those struggling with PTSD.
“Jeremy, I tell them how you gave me your Purple Heart and how you gave so much of yourself being wounded, and how I am sharing your Purple Heart to bring awareness for those that gave so much to keep us free. I open up the box that I keep it in … there is a silence across the building,” writes Stoltzfus.
“We have the best world class auctioneers and bid spotters in the room. I start off at $1,000 maybe a long shot… drop to $500, someone yells $2,000. I gulp and I know we are in for a great ride. Auctioneers and bid spotters are yelping and jumping up and down and I’m about in tears and we are on a roll.
Now the emotions are about taking over me. It’s hard keeping it together with all the love I’m feeling from the people and all the GAA workers helping to make this a success.
I knock it off at $9,000 thinking we’re finished. No we’re not finished!
Soon with the help of the professional auctioneers and bid spotters, folks are yelling out, “I will give $500, I will give $2,500.”
One says $1,000 and we’re up to $13,850 and there are more saying they will send checks in or will donate through the web.
I’m speechless, never expected it. About $20,000. I give all the credit to Greensboro Classic Car auction for making it happen. They run a tight program, selling a car every 2 minutes.”
Stoltzfus wishes he had time to talk about the veteran he has met and the stories they share state by state, “along with the adventures I had up and down the hills of the back roads of Virginia sitting on the edge of my seat. But we will save that for another time.”
Stoltzfus gives a shout out to his niece Eileen and her husband Nevin Ranck, who stayed at their homestead in Virginia where their cow Betsy gave him free milk for breakfast. And to all the campsites that gave him a free site for the night and “strangers who love veterans like I do and paid for my gas and bought me meals, thank you.”
“People are good and God is good.”
Stoltzfus hit the Florida state line Nov. 9. A friend Dave Stoltzfus drove his truck down from PA to accompany him riding his bike for a few days like he did in 2014.
“New day tomorrow …new places mile after mile.”
“Until we care about our Veterans only then can we truly be free ourselves,” writes Stoltzfus.
For more information, visit http://helpamericanheroes.com/