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Pennsylvania Patriot Aids Veterans
by Diana Loski
Mr. Ivan Stoltzfus & his John Deere tractor (Courtesy of Ivan Stoltzfus)
Mr. Ivan Stoltzfus & his John Deere tractor (Courtesy of Ivan Stoltzfus)

Ivan Stoltzfus, a retired Pennsylvania farmer and working auctioneer, had always wanted to travel across the United States in a tractor – and to travel for a purpose, “to do good for someone who needs it.”  His own father had worked his way across the country, and Ivan hoped to follow in those paternal footsteps and see his country.  With a busy life, that dream was put on hold indefinitely.  When Ivan’s father turned 90, he gave his son some sagely advice:  “If you have a dream, don’t wait too long to do it.  I wish I had done more with my life.”

“My dad would be one hundred now.  He died about ten years ago,” Ivan said. “I  thought about what he said, and so I decided to do it.” 

In 2014, Ivan took some time off from auctioneering, climbed into his John Deere tractor, with a trailer for sleeping quarters attached to the back, and began the journey.  His trip was done to raise awareness for the many wounded veterans, and for those who never came home.

One veteran who requested to meet Ivan on his trip was Jeremy Jackson, a sharpshooter who was severely wounded in Afghanistan.  A recipient of the Purple Heart, Jeremy approached Ivan and handed him a small box.  Ivan remembered, “I said, ‘what’s this?’ I opened it and it was his Purple Heart.  I told him, ‘Jeremy, I can’t take this.’”  With tears running down his cheeks, Jeremy insisted that he take it as a token of his deep appreciation.  Jackson insisted that Ivan was the hero, calling to remembrance the many who think they are forgotten.

The Purple Heart can be seen hanging from the John Deere tractor.

Ivan is a regular at veterans’ hospitals, and his respect for those who have put their lives on the line for America has received national attention.

“I was never in the military,” Ivan declared, “and I always took my liberty for granted.  I had friends who had been in the service, and I became aware somewhat of what these brave people have been through.  And so I took up their cause.”

A daily diary was kept throughout the first trip.  From it, Ivan has written a book, entitled, A Dream To Reality: Changing Lives One Mile at a Time.

With the 2014 trip a national success, Ivan has decided to make another one.  Beginning on October 15th, Ivan will begin his trek from eastern Pennsylvania to California, then northward to Montana, and then back to the Keystone State.  He will travel in a 1948 John Deere tractor, with his 24-foot trailer pulled behind him.  The trek will last approximately a year and a half.

As a send off for this Pennsylvania patriot, Sandoe’s Fruit Market, located at 304 Carlisle Street in Biglerville, is hosting an event in Ivan’s honor, and to raise money for America's disabled and suffering veterans.  From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 1st, Ivan and his John Deere will be available to meet the public.  There will be musical entertainment, children’s activities, and vendors with food, drink, and other items available.  

Ivan is particularly hoping to raise awareness for those veterans and soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.   “There’s a lot of pain,” Ivan acknowledged.  “These people have been through so much.  We’re one big family here in America, and we need to take care of each other.”

For those interested in making a donation, visit the website: HelpAmericanHeroes.com.  Ivan hopes to raise one million dollars for those brave men and women who have done so much for us.  With Veterans’ Day approaching, it is a good way to remember those who should never be forgotten.

Ivan Stoltzfus is a man with a mission.  He will be going through many towns on his trek across the nation, from east to west and back again.  We are fortunate that not only will he travel through Pennsylvania – he is a Pennsylvanian.

We wish him a safe journey, and are eager to hear about his travels upon his return.

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