Ivan on FOX NEWS - Retired farmer drives tractor across US for wounded vets
Man drives tractor across the country for wounded veterans
Ivan Stoltzfus, 70, was a successful farmer for 30 years near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Then one day, he recalled wise words from his father and he decided to fulfill a lifelong dream.
“He said one day out of the blue, ‘Ivan, if you have a dream, don't wait until you're too old and physically can't do it,’”Stoltzfus said.
Stoltzfus always wanted to drive across the country, like his father did for work when he was a child. And for a long time he had a calling to somehow give back to American veterans. He said he didn't want to take his freedom for granted.
"It got to a point where I couldn't even sleep at night,” Stoltzfus said.
In 2014, the farmer combined both of his dreams and decided to drive across the country in a custom, 1948 John Deere tractor to raise awareness and money for wounded heroes.
Now he’s at it again. This time, he is driving from Pennsylvania to Florida to the Pacific Northwest and back through the Midwest to Gettysburg, Pa.
“I like to think going across America as planting that seed of hope,” Stoltzfus said. “Giving those hope that have given up.”
Stoltzfus has raised nearly $50,000 for veterans. In particular, those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Stoltzfus has raised nearly $50,000 for vets. He is on the road nearly 14 hours a day.
But he said it’s not about the money. Instead, his real treasure is the personal interactions he gets with veterans and their families on the road.
In the short time Fox News spent with Stoltzfus in the small town of Oregon, Illinois, three different strangers stopped to greet him. Two were veterans. One paid for his gas. Both thanked him.
The third man, Mike Olman, had been following Stoltzfus' journey online and was stunned to see him in person. He was brought to tears at the sight of the tractor because his 23-year-old son was killed in the Iraq war.
"Somebody from above decided my route needed to come through Oregon today and here I am," Olman said.
Stoltzfus' drive is not easy. He's on the road for up to 14 hours per day. The cab heavily vibrates. He compares the constant shifting and steering in the antiquated cab to "dancing like a monkey on a hot tin roof."
But he says he wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's all worth it,” he said. “Because you never know what's going to be around that next curve, or what veteran I'm going to meet."
You can donate to Stoltztfus or track his journey at www.helpamericanheroes.com.
Matt Finn is a Fox News correspondent based in the Chicago bureau. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFinnFNC
June 30th and July 1st
Fox News was here at 3 am setting up their tent and cameras to be ready to film at 4 am central time .
They did a great job and was such a pleasure working with the crew and you can tell they appreciate our veterans and first responders.
Makes me appreciate how much work our net work is involved to bring out a news report so we all can enjoy.
The crew getting up middle of the night to repair for a news report in the morning so we can enjoy while having our first cup of coffee.
Fox news did 4 different reports during the day and donations were coming in through our web page all day throughout the US.
In the afternoon I move my rig down town on 1st street at 1st Street Bookstore for a book signing event.
By evening I must admit, I was a little tired and they had a concert close to the church parking lot so I didn't get must sleep till after 10.
It was a good day, met a lot of nice people at the bookstore.
Great picture of Jim and Arlan Olson sitting in front of 1st book store.
Jim did a great job in advertising and planning events all weekend here in Dixon, IL.
In the morning at 9am, this being Petunia festival weekend they have a community service. I was ask to share about my trip.
1pm, I will be driving my rig in the Petunia parade here in Dixon.
I help Jim Olson load his 430 JD and we headed out to Holland & Sons,Inc (JD tractor show).
I was able to sell a number of books from trip 2014, hats and t-shirts.
I was busy all morning.
Heading back to the the church parking lot stop in at Wal-mart for some supplies getting ready to head south on Monday morning
I was in my my camper had a knock on my door. I had a nice surprise Dave and sherry Schaefer drove 2.5 hours down from Fennimore, Wisconsin to say hi and see how I was doing.I was touched.
We became great friends while I was in Finnimore, they drove me for a rental car to head to Mason City back a few weeks and we been in touch and looking forward keeping in touch.
The couple Larry and Louise Reed in the picture at the tractor show drove couple hours from Iowa to meet me and buy a sign book.