Memorial Day has its roots among the fallen soldiers of the Civil War, including hundreds of thousands of farmers.
On the cover of the May 2011 issue of Nebraska Farmer, farmer and soldier, Chief Master Sgt. Bob Huttes, poses with his tractor. Farmer soldiers, like Huttes, have been serving our nation and protecting it through thick and thin since the American Revolution. Better yet, Huttes is part of an Agribusiness Development Team that will spend a year improving Afghanistan’s farming in the province of Paktia.
The spirit of these brave and farming soldiers from Nebraska is carrying on a long tradition of homegrown Huskers in uniform. With the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, we can recall that as far back as 1861, Nebraska farmers volunteered for service in the Union army, before Nebraska was even a state. Soldiers from Nebraska Territory fought and helped win the day at Fort Donelson, Shiloh and in the guerrilla skirmishes and bloody battles around the countryside of Arkansas and Missouri for the duration of the Civil War. They protected overland routes on the Plains and joined regiments from Iowa and other states to fight side by side with their farming neighbors.
Memorial Day began as a way to honor the Civil War dead. In the old days, Memorial Day activities might include speeches and patriotic songs, parades of Civil War veterans and veterans of later wars, and decorating the graves of veterans with flowers. These things haven’t changed. We still honor the men and women who have protected our democracy for centuries. We pay tribute to those who have given their lives so we might enjoy the opportunities to live on the land and make our livings out in the country.
And this Memorial Day, in addition to remembering the honored dead resting in our peaceful rural cemeteries, we might also honor the living farmer soldiers, like Bob Huttes, who are carrying on the most distinguished legacy of our farming families.