Throughout my fulfilling life, I’ve been fortunate to be heavily involved in both farming and ranching – for all the right reasons, I am passionate about each. From the time I was introduced to agriculture through now, my love for the outdoors has blossomed. Many hands-on experiences have taught me valuable life lessons, with humility, built character and in some respects delivered a feeling of independence – in that I learned through both mentorship and on my own how to be part of a team and contribute individually to successful outcomes. As a high school student and during the first two years of college, I spent my summers participating in wheat harvests away from home – in Oklahoma, and some other areas of the country. In Oklahoma my participation was initially during the summer on a part-time basis on a family friend’s farm – it was there that I developed a strong work ethic, typically working 18 hours a day utilizing resources such as combines and trucks, which in turn set the tone for my future professional life. There were fair expectations, and I was driven to get things done in a timely manner. As many of us know, timing is everything – a new window opened when an established farm hand was called away, drafted into the military. Knowing my serious interest in farming, the custom harvester, the owner, if you will, approached me asking if I would be interested in filling in and finishing out the year to complete the work. I immediately accepted and ended up spending the next five summers happily contributing to their overall efforts. Balancing school and life, I enrolled in college, Kansas State University, to study business. Half-way through my college experience, I transferred to Emporia State University where I majored in business administration and minored in accounting and economics – what I learned at each institution has served me well. Upon graduation, I entered the oil and gas industry, over time being elevated to management, spending 36 terrific years working in a profession that covered the lower 48 states as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Fast forward to 2016, the year that I fully retired and started my own small farming operation in South Fork Valley near Cody, Wyoming – in many respects it came full circle.
With respect to Special Operations Warrior Foundation, about three years ago, my wife Jamie and I were invited to an intimate group dinner at fellow Ambassador and friends Jim and Ginger Dager’s home outside of Cody Wyoming. Though I dedicate myself to a variety of projects, I do not typically become emotional regarding certain matters. Sentiments changed that night when we were introduced to SOWF and heard numerous inspiring, incredible stories. We were invited the following year to another group dinner at the Dager’s and SOWF President and CEO Major General (Ret) Clay Hutmacher spoke – he provided additional meaningful insight regarding what SOWF does and why. Afterwards I vividly recall my friend Jim Dager stating, in a very heartfelt manner, “that being associated with SOWF could be life changing.” Based on all the information we took in the wheels started turning and what was shared truly resonated. The following day, I decided to reach out to Clay, learned even more and said to myself, this is a no-brainer, I’m in. The thing is, Jamie was all in, too, and we have never looked back. It is important to note that with Jamie fully engaged as well, we’re going about this effort like we do in our personal life, as a team. Knowing that part of SOWF’s fundraising efforts include pursuing sponsorships, Jamie and I talked about the possibility of the company she works for, Transamerica, supporting SOWF’s Join Forces: Texas Style major fundraising dinner at the Omni Dallas Hotel on September 23. Transamerica committed to the title sponsorship level and our sense is this will serve as a springboard to introducing other companies to the mission of SOWF. Our hope is that other financial institutions may be inclined to become involved, too. Why do I believe so strongly in the SOWF mission? My answer is very simple and to the point, SOWF saves lives and builds lives. Take a moment to consider what surviving spouses and families experience. Suddenly, you learn a parent/loved one is lost – what happens next? Just the thought of a surviving spouse suddenly being left with one or multiple children of all ages and not knowing where funding for college educations and additional educational opportunities will come from truly impacts me, moves us both. I can imagine the relief that must be felt by a surviving spouse and family when notified by SOWF with this piece of news – that the educational financial burden will be lifted from their shoulders with no strings attached. I honestly believe we have and do save lives by educating and mentoring future generations while ensuring student success. I would encourage everyone reading this to visit or contact SOWF headquarters in Tampa. At SOWF, the walls are lined with images and personal notes from students SOWF has guided through academics and in their transition to the workforce and beyond. SOWF does not just write a check, they are there every step of the way to support students and families, especially with assorted practical programs and services. It is such a privilege to be involved with this organization and importantly – honor the fallen by taking care of their children with educations.