A group of antique tractor owners, meandering across Nebraska at 12 mph, collected and donated $4,300 for The American Legion’s Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) program in early June.
More than 160 farmers participated in at least one segment of the nine-day, 425-mile Tractor Relay Across Nebraska. This was the third year for the event but its first time as a fundraiser. OCW was selected as the beneficiary.
“There are a lot of veterans in our association or people with family members in the military, so this seemed like an appropriate donation,” said relay coordinator Donelle Moormeier of Cortland, Neb. “OCW is a very good cause and something that we would like to support because of all that our veterans do for us.”
The farmers appreciated the fact that 100 percent of donations to OCW go toward gifts or recreational activities for wounded servicemembers and their family members.
“It was very important for us to know this money was going to the vets and their families,” said Moormeier, who drove the entire route with a U.S. flag displayed on her 1966 International Harvester tractor.
Indeed, the fundraising efforts had greater results than the group anticipated. “Sometimes you don’t think people are interested in veterans,” she said. “It reaffirmed my faith in the people of Nebraska. They do appreciate what the veterans and the military do for us. Everybody in the towns welcomed us and were happy we were driving for OCW.”
Throughout the event, American Legion posts and other community organizations welcomed, fed and cheered the farmers. On the seventh day, Post 203 in McCook sponsored a community cookout in a park to welcome the farmers and solicit OCW donations.
“Just having a hand in this makes me proud to be able to help our young servicemen and women,” said Dan Stramel, commander of Post 203 and a retired Marine. “It’s an honor to help provide the dollars needed for comfort items for their relaxation.”
World War II veteran Wendell Argotsinger was one of 10 or so farmers who traveled the entire route. “OCW sounds like a wonderful cause,” said Argotsinger, 86, of Denison, Iowa. “I hope they continue to get some more donations.”
Moormeier is optimistic that future tractor rallies will choose OCW. To her, the program is important because of who it helps, as illustrated by a conversation she had midway through the event.
“The other night in Alma, one gal said, ‘I just have to thank you. My husband is a vet, and you don’t know how important this is to us.’”