Garrett Dwyer recalls the Iraqi countryside, from his days on patrol as a U.S. Marine. He says that irrigation trenches in Iraq were a nighttime obstacle to Marines on patrol. And he rarely observed any livestock in Iraq, except for a few sheep.
Today, the young veteran has returned from his days in a Marine uniform, to work with his parents on the family ranch west of Elgin. For Dwyer, the return home and acclimation back into civilian life wasn’t always easy. But he loves the ranch, his cows and the peace of the Sandhills.
Thanks to a program through the University of Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis, Dwyer and other veterans can build up cow herds, start farming or initiate their own Main Street businesses in rural Nebraska. The program, known as “Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots,” offers assistance and coordination with programs through agencies like the Department of Defense and USDA to help veterans find new lives on the farm or ranch, or in small towns. The program follows veterans through the process of business planning and applying for loans needed to own their own farms, ranches and businesses. It utilizes mentors in the business world who can help them follow their dreams.
In Dwyer’s case, returning home meant working with his parents and building up the family cow herd to take full advantage of the grazing and hay land on the family ranch. Serving as the Veterans Coordinator for the NCTA program, Dwyer understands some of the concerns and dreams of veterans returning home. He knows how tough it is to find jobs and find a new life after military service.
But Dwyer is happy in his new vocation, and happy to be home. He now has plans of his own, to expand the family cow herd, upgrade equipment and build up the family ranch. With so many veterans returning home from tours of duty around the world, we can only hope that those who grew up in rural America will embrace rural culture and small town life again. As Dwyer says, these veterans bring special military skills, like discipline, courage and leadership, back to rural areas with them. We welcome our heroes home and hope they come back to stay. Learn more about Dwyer, the NCTA veterans programs and how veterans can return to rural Nebraska in the June issue of Nebraska Farmer.