Veteran Stories

Farmer veteran military couple supports local US veterans and other entrepreneurs sell their goods

farmer veterans

Farmer Veterans Justin and Tara Brant held the grand opening of Black Swamp Artisanal Market Sept. 24 in downtown Dover, in a 1,200-square-foot store that had been vacant for several years.

Tara, a registered nurse, is a US Army veteran, while Justin serves in the US Navy but plans to farm full-time soon.

Farmers themselves, the Brants are leading a team of more than 25 vendors offering farm-fresh meats, eggs, butter, cheese, yogurt, vegetables, herbs, spices, flowers, honey and baked goods along with handcrafted soaps, lotions, oils, jewelry and furniture. Art and local photographs are also on sale. “The response has been wonderful,” said Tara. “We’ve received great feedback and lots of positive comments. It’s been awesome.”

The Black Swamp Artisanal Market is named after the Brants’ farm where they raise pigs and chickens near Felton, and they named their farm after the road it’s on. “Artisanal” means made in a traditional or non-mechanized way, not from a factory. The products are grown or raised locally — homemade, handcrafted.

The Brants, members of the Farmers-Veterans Coalition, display products on custom wood furniture made by Fortitude Furnishings, owned by a U.S. Marine Corps veteran in Georgetown, and that furniture is also for sale.

Amy Spampinato of Dover, who was shopping Thursday with her family, said the market “makes my life easier.”

“I always thought something like this would be a good idea with all the farmers in the area. Before, I would drive all over to buy at the different farms, but now it’s all curated in one spot,” she said.

She also likes the look of the store. “Ambience and décor matter. This is a beautiful place to shop,” Spampinato said. Hours are Thursday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours Friday until 8 p.m. Farmer Veterans. (continue reading)

An Unforgettable Smell

WWII veteran Canadian

“Young men do not like to show their fear. They have it, but they keep it within them as much as they possibly can”

Woodrow Coward , Canadian Veteran WWII, Korea War

An Unforgettable Smell: An initiative of Historica Canada, The Memory Project is a volunteer speakers bureau that arranges for veterans and Canadian Forces members to share their stories of military service at school and community events across the country. Our speakers have reached 3 million Canadians since 2001. In this article, we want to share recently published story of Woodrow Coward with the courtesy of The Canadian Encyclopedia.

I served in World War II in London, England, during the Battle of Britain, then in Italy, then, of course, peacekeeping in Korea in 1953-54. My introduction to real war was during the Battle of Britain. The air raid sirens go, and then you hear the clump of the bombs as they come down and land. And then, of course, after the clump of the bombs, the distinctive sounds of the fire vehicles and the ambulances. Young men do not like to show their fear. They have it, but they keep it within them as much as they possibly can. I think I was, in some respects, ashamed of my fear. But I looked around me and I saw thousands of other people who were subjected to the same threats and were dealing with it. And I said, well, if they can, so can you. Then, as time went on, the Cold War was upon us, and we had to deal with the possibility of nuclear weapons being used on the battlefield.

The Canadian Forces went into a series of survival exercises and I had a role there, where I was going into the bunker to organize the transportation services for Canada. During that period, my family – I was located in Ottawa, that’s where I was stationed at the time – they were on a hilltop someplace, theoretically, being fried. And I found that very incongruous, that I was quite safe in a bunker while my family were exposed. I happened to be on duty in Ottawa in the Ops Centre in 1962 when the Cuban Missile Crisis was on. And I don’t think the world realized that we were within twenty minutes of a nuclear exchange at that time.

I took an early retirement from the Armed Forces in ’67, and thirteen years later I participated in the formation of an organization known as VANA – Veterans Against Nuclear Arms. The Chinese would call it a “fan chen”, a 180-degree reversal. As an army officer, I was primarily a reactionary. By 1967, my family had rejected much of the values and the philosophies which I had held. They insisted that if I had to keep my mind open I had to look at other things than just the right of centre. An Unforgettable Smell: (continue reading)

  • Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of neither the original publisher web site nor referencing

From Combat To Cattle: A Veteran Army Ranger’s Story

veteran army ranger operates a waygu steak store.

Veteran Army Ranger Patrick Montgomery never could have imagined his business as an online Wagyu beef retailer would become an overnight success for their hot dogs.

When the combat veteran left the military in 2014 and went to the University of Missouri to pursue a degree in Animal Science to become a veterinarian, he instead decided to buy a farm. Montgomery is now the owner and founder of KC Cattle Company of Weston, Missouri, which offers melt-in-your-mouth, perfectly marbled, hormone and antibiotic-free Wagyu steaks as well as pasture-raised Berkshire pork and even burgers, brats and hot dogs.

“I wanted to bridge the gap between agriculture and the consumer and the appeal for me was working outside and owning a ranch,” he said. “No one really knew what Wagyu was yet, and I figured I was young so I gave it a shot. One of the biggest things I noticed along the way was there were a ton of protein options for consumers to pick through, but with Wagyu, you can really tell a palatable difference. I wanted people to have a unique eating experience. It has been interesting and fun to see people learn what we are all about.”

Their hot dogs are the best

A few years ago, Food & Wine gave KC Cattle Company a top nod for its Wagyu hot dog, saying it was “basically like eating a steak in a bun.” Shortly after that article was published, they quickly sold out of every single product on the site. “That was crazy,” Montgomery reflects. “Hot dogs were our worst seller and then the article came out and it was the #1 article on Apple news. We only had about 40 packages of hot dogs in stock when the article came out and they were our worst seller. Over the next few weeks, we sold about 7,500 packages of hot dogs. We used to think we were a Wagyu steak company but now our number one seller is hot dogs [laughs]. Strips and ribeyes are next up in popularity.” (continue reading)

America’s Oldest WWII Veteran Celebrates 112th Birthday in New Orleans

Lawrence Brooks, the United States' oldest living WWII veteran

Lawrence Brooks, the United States’ oldest living WWII veteran, celebrated his 112th birthday in style on Sunday.

The supercentenarian usually celebrates his birthdays at The National WWII Museum in his native New Orleans. Sadly, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic led museum to arrange a small, socially distanced birthday celebration at Brooks’ home this year.

The bash included a performance from the museum’s vocal trio, The Victory Belles, and a Jeep parade courtesy of Kajun Outcast Jeep Club and Northshore Wrangler Association.

Brooks and his family maintained a safe distance on his front porch as he was presented with a cake and cards, as well as a serenade from The Victory Belles.

After the war, Brooks worked as a forklift operator before retiring at age 70. He has five children, five stepchildren, 13 grandchildren, and dozens of great-grandchildren. His second wife Leona died shortly after they were evacuated by helicopter following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He’s been a widower ever since.

He credits his good health with long walks and chewing gum, a habit he used to replace cigarettes.

Oldest living WWII veteran: Lawrence Brooks

Brooks, born in 1909, served in the Army’s 91st Engineer Battalion, a majority African-American unit stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines during the war as a support worker. During his time in the service, he reached the rank of private first class.

The Department of Veteran Affairs shared that while Brooks did not directly serve in a combat role, while on a C-47 cargo plane transporting wire from Australia to New Guinea one of the engines on the plane failed. 

Brooks said he quickly started dumping cargo out of the plane when he realized he would not have a parachute.  (continue read and watch)


UK Veteran uses his experiences to teach the next generation of soldiers

UK veteran Afghanistan

Richard ( UK army veteran) joined the Army when he was 19 years old. The experience of losing comrades in Afghanistan and Iraq led to very difficult times in the civilian world. But with support from The Poppy Factory, Richard is now helping to train the next generation of soldiers to be the best they can be, and he’s feeling positive about the future.

Young and on tour

Richard said: “In 2003 I was sent to Iraq on my first deployment. I was scared and anxious as I didn’t know what to expect. It wasn’t a bad tour and we didn’t lose anyone. Shortly after I came back, I was promoted. I was really proud of myself for moving up in the Army.

“Three years later, I went to Iraq again. This time there were bombs landing everywhere, and on the second day we lost one of our guys. That’s when I realised I was in a very dangerous place. My mind was telling me to leave. I felt confused, but I carried on.

“Later I received sad news that a close family member had died. I was devastated. I had some time off to go to his funeral overseas, then I slotted straight back into soldier life.

Serving in Afghanistan

“A few months after that I started training for Afghanistan. It was my first deployment there but I was one of the most experienced soldiers going. It was a hard tour and we lost quite a few guys. When I came back, I didn’t feel right. I was drinking heavily and wasn’t myself. I just couldn’t deal with the injuries I’d seen.

“In 2010 I was deployed back to Afghanistan. I felt obliged to go. When I got there, a close friend was killed, and I felt responsible. From then on, my mind wasn’t functioning any more.

“Back in the UK, I didn’t know how to feel, I couldn’t sleep, and I was having nightmares. I tried to end my own life more than once. When I was medically discharged, I felt lost and couldn’t adjust to normal life. Everything was turned upside down. (continue reading)

For Those Left Behind: An Afghan American Marine Veteran Reflects On His Homeland

Afghan veteran

Marine veteran Ajmal Achekzai fled Afghanistan during the onset of the Soviet–Afghan War in 1980, leaving his birth city of Kabul behind. He was only five years old.

The next time he would return would be in November of 2001. U.S. Marines were the first major ground forces sent to Afghanistan after 9/11. Ajmal was among them. 

Twenty years later, Ajmal is witnessing the return of Taliban control. He sat down with StoryCorps to remember where he came from, the dire uncertainty of Afghanistan’s future and the love he has for its people.

I told myself I was gonna go back to Afghanistan, but never thought I would go back in a time of war. 

We were the first 300 boots on ground Marines. And, when I returned to Kabul, my birth city, I was trying to teach the Marines about the Afghan culture. And then I was teaching the Afghans about the military and what we were about. 

Being the only one that spoke the language, I became friends with a lot of the locals. And they would bring food, like, ‘My mom made some food for you.’ They saw me as one of their own. Afghan people are one of the most honorable and hospitable people in the world. 

I was right there between two cultures that I love. And it was a lot of emotions from both ends.

And then the image of leaving Bagram Airport, I can see the whole city. Desert, huge Afghan flag. Afghanistan, to me, is my motherland. Beauty, poetry. And they’re survivors, that’s what they are. Forty years of war, they wake up every day, dust the dirt off their shoulder and keep going.

We told them that we’re here for their safety. We’re here to make sure that they progress. But, I feel like I failed the Afghan people ‘cause I lied to them. 

I had to escape just like them. 

I joined the service basically to serve the country that allowed me to come. 

And, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized what my part in this world is, it’s to help others. It’s the rent we pay to live in this country. 

If there was something I would say to the people of Afghanistan that are waiting to come — I’m sorry, we failed you, but keep hope alive. Always fight until you get that freedom again.

US WWII Veteran Reunites With Italians He Saved As Children

WWII veteran reunites with italian

BOLOGNA, Italy (AP) — For more than seven decades, WWII Veteran Martin Adler treasured a black-and-white photo of himself as a young American soldier with a broad smile with three impeccably dressed Italian children he is credited with saving as the Nazis retreated northward in 1944.

Recently the 97-year-old veteran met the three siblings — now octogenarians themselves — in person for the first time since the war.

Adler held out his hand to grasp those of Bruno, Mafalda and Giuliana Naldi for the joyful reunion at Bologna’s airport after a 20-hour journey from Boca Raton, Florida.

Then, just as he did as a 20-year-old soldier in their village of Monterenzio, he handed out bars of American chocolate.

“Look at my smile,’’ Adler said of the long-awaited in-person reunion, made possible by the reach of social media.

It was a happy ending to a story that could easily have been a tragedy.

The very first time the soldier and the children saw each other, in 1944, the three faces peeked out of a huge wicker basket where their mother had hidden them as soldiers approached. Adler thought the house was empty, so he trained his machine gun on the basket when he heard a sound, thinking a German soldier was hiding inside.

“The mother, Mamma, came out and stood right in front of my gun to stop me (from) shooting,” Adler recalled. “She put her stomach right against my gun, yelling, ‘Bambinis! Bambinis! Bambinis!’ pounding my chest,’’ Adler recalled.

“That was a real hero, the mother, not me. The mother was a real hero. Can you imagine you standing yourself in front of a gun and screaming ‘Children! No!’” he said.

Adler still trembles when he remembers that he was only seconds away from opening fire on the basket. And after all these decades, he still suffers nightmares from the war, said his daughter, Rachelle Donley.

The children, aged 3 to 6 when they met, were a happy memory. His company stayed on in the village for a while and he would come by and play with them. (continue reading)

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Veteran of the Year John Peck (retired Marine) has persevered and inspired many lives

marine-veteran john peck

Marine Corps veteran John Peck knows that no one is asking him to do more for his country, especially after he lost all of his limbs in a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan more than a decade ago.

But he still feels like he has more to give.

If there’s something that I can do for my fellow brothers and sisters, then I want to do it,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to help. If I share my story, if I can talk about being suicidal and how I got through that, maybe it can help.”

Peck, who is being honored as Military Times Veteran of the Year for 2021, is known in the military community not just for the horror of his severe combat injuries but also for the resilience he has shown since.

The Marine Veteran has written a book on his experiences and worked as a motivational speaker, sharing intimate details of his physical pain, bouts of depression and frustration trying to adjust to life with two transplanted arms.

Now Peck, 35, is looking to do more. He’s looking at taking classes to help provide financial assistance to other veterans — “often, when veterans are thinking about suicide, finances are the number one stresser” — and looking for groups he could partner with to reach out on veterans mental health issues.

“I don’t love the spotlight,” he said. “I try to stay out of it as much as possible, which is weird, given all the attention on me.

“But if I can do my part and help other veterans, that’s cool.” (continue reading)

Air Force Veteran Paranteau: “How My Military Experience Shaped Me To Be A Leader”

air force veteran transition

This is the success and transition story of Air Force Veteran Joe Paranteau . As a U.S. Air Force veteran, he is committed to veteran’s issues. He supports causes to end child trafficking and exploitation.

From the foot soldiers of the Roman Empire and Genghis Khan’s cavalry to today’s military, the contributions and leadership of people in uniform have stood the test of time.

I spent eight years in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserve and the leadership lessons I learned have lasted a lifetime. I often rely on my military leadership lessons to lead sales and business teams today.

Here are a few of the most enduring lessons I learned. Whether you have served or not, you can take some of these golden nuggets and apply them to your business:

It’s Not About “You.” It’s About “Us”

The moment enlisted or officers start their initial training – the core value is the same. No one person is greater than the team. If you are a lone wolf, you won’t go far. From the minute your service begins, you learn that the sum is more significant than its parts. The team is everything.

My first night in training, I watched people shed their individuality for the team’s good. Over time, our team grew stronger through proximity and shared adversity. If something wasn’t right, the whole team suffered.

I was a chow runner, which meant I ran ahead of the formation to the chow hall to sign our unit in. The fastest runners guaranteed their units ate first. I could run fast. In fact, on a good day, I could get signed in 5-10 minutes before my unit would arrive, which meant I had time for a bit of shut-eye. One day, I was fast asleep leaning against a pole. Click, click, click. I heard the boot taps of my drill instructors as they circled me. I woke up and stood at attention. They yelled at me for what seemed like hours.

I had already learned to take ultimate accountability for my actions. When asked why I was asleep at my post, I replied, “No excuse, sir.” In reality, there is no reason for an excuse, although people make thousands of them. My unit had to wait because of my actions instead of eating early. I stared into a sea of hungry, impatient eyes and realized I made a mistake that affected everyone. I learned to never repeat that mistake again! (continue reading)

A day to honor veterans: How Did Armistice Day Become Veterans Day in US?

emporia veterans day

Americans celebrate Veterans Day every year on Nov. 11 to honor those who have served in the armed forces and fought to protect our way of life. Commemorative events, parades and, of course, some sweet shopping deals are all around the country.

The Armistice Day holiday, which originally marked the end of World War I, was broadened in the 1950s to honor all veterans. And without city of Emporia, Kansas, there would be no Veterans Day.

There is historical significance behind why we celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11. The Allied nations and Germany signed an armistice, or a temporary halting of hostilities during World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month on Nov. 11, 1918. A year later, King George V of England proclaimed that date Armistice Day, to be marked with two minutes of silence at 11 a.m., the hour the agreement had gone into effect. In the mean time, President Woodrow Wilson declared Nov. 11, 1919 the first Armistice Day in the U.S., and the name was changed to Veterans Day on June 1, 1954 to honor veterans of all wars.

The Veterans Day holiday – will be 68 years old in Emporia and 67 years old nationally in 2021 – began through the efforts of an Emporia shoe repairman, Alvin J. (Al) King.

A Brief History

In 1953, Alvin J. King of Emporia, Kan., proposed changing the name of the holiday to Veterans Day, to recognize veterans from all wars and conflicts. According to a 2003 congressional resolution recognizing his efforts, the holiday was first celebrated in that small city, about 60 miles southwest of Topeka, the same year. The resolution noted that while Mr. King was not a veteran himself, his stepson John Cooper, whom he had raised, was killed in combat during World War II.

King began his campaign to change an existing national holiday – Armistice Day – to Veterans Day. He gained the cooperation of the community’s American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AmVets. The community raised money to send Mr. King and his wife, Gertrude, to Washington to meet with officials and push them to change the name of the federal holiday. They received crucial support from Representative Edward H. Rees, also of Emporia.

Rees agreed to take King’s idea to Washington, D.C., where it passed the House and Senate. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill establishing Veterans Day as a national holiday. The nation held its first Veterans Day on Nov. 11, 1954.

The First Event was a Local Ceremony

The small city of Emporia in Kansas , however, had organized its first celebration, called “All Veterans Day,” in 1953.

After King’s proposal, ninety percent of Emporia storeowners had decided to close their businesses for the day. The Emporia Board of Education followed suit for schools. As a result, most Emporians were free to take part in or watch many of the events.

The Emporia Gazette and Emporia Times newspapers reported a full slate of activities that began with a parade at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 11, 1953. At 11 a.m., civil-defense sirens, church bells and power-plant whistles marked the formal beginning of the event; the timing acknowledged the signing of the armistice that ended World War I at 11 a.m. of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.

The American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps stood at Sixth Avenue and Commercial Street to play “Taps” after the whistles and bells, and the Kansas City AmVets Drum and Bugle Corps stood nearby to sound the echo.

Hot dogs, beans and coffee were served free in the basement of the Civic Auditorium. A wheelchair basketball game followed, featuring the Rolling Pioneers of Kansas City against a town team that included names familiar still to long-time Emporians – Malcom Smith of the Lowther Junior High School faculty, Carl Haney, Jerry Waugh and Gene Ridenour of the Emporia High School staff; Leslie Hayes of The Emporia Gazette; Keith Caywood of Kansas State Teachers College faculty; and Tom McGahey of Olpe High School. The drive-in theater showed a free movie and a free dance closed the day’s events.

Then-Kansas Governor Edward F. Arn watched the parade from the reviewing stand and, according to a newspaper account, “exclaimed, ‘This is a wonderful thing. Every city of the nation should have this.’” By the next year, it was.

All Veterans Tribute

Emporia is proud to be the Official Founding City of Veterans Day! Each November a multi-day celebration known as the All Veterans Tribute occurs to remember and honor our military veterans. A parade, memorial service, veteran artist exhibit, roundtable discussions, tribute show, Freedom Fest run, ride, and disc golf events, and more are in the event list each year. (see event link)