Tonight, I had the opportunity and pleasure to cover an event that celebrated the opening of a wean to finish hog facility in Knox County, Illinois.
The Links and the Higgersons are great people, very gracious and welcoming and established in the area as farm families who have farmed and raised livestock for several generations.
This new facility, which is operated by Aaron and Nathan Link and Jared Higgerson, is a big venture. I talked to Aaron and Jared and they expressed confidence that the U.S. pork industry will make a comeback, as it has done before in times of trouble, and be strong again. The two new buildings are proof of their faith in the future.
On the way to the farm, I passed a member of the Patriot Guard Riders. He was riding a Harley Davidson, had a black leather jacket with what appeared to be a big PGR patch on the back. Flying from the back of his bike were two full-size American flags. He was headed south, toward Galesburg.
This night was also the visitation for Illinois National Guardsman Spc. Christopher Talbert who lost his life in Afghanistan July 7. That was, no doubt, where the lone rider with the American flags was headed.
I support our U.S. soldiers and their mission. I also support our U.S. farmers and their mission. Both soldiers and farmers are vital to our freedom and our happiness. Our soldiers protect our freedom, our farmers give us food. It's a wonderful combination of people to support, let me tell you!
Knox County has a strong farming tradition and a very strong livestock farming tradition.
The area also has a strong tradition of military service. Soldiers and sailors like Spc. Talbert, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Gary Rovinski of Roseville, Army Pfc. Caleb Lufkin of Knoxville and others have made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tonight I thought how much we owe to both our farmers and our soldiers and how tough these two groups are in the face of adversity.
Farmers and soldiers, although their circumstances are different, face daily trials that would make most of us either not start at all or throw up our hands and say 'enough!'
But they don't.
Farmers are the ultimate gamblers. They plant crops, buy livestock, build buildings and then see how the cards turn up. They do that because they love what they do and for others, so that we may have safe, secure, affordable food and a continuing supply of it.
Soldiers take risks of a different sort, they risk their life and limb and future happiness each day when they go out on their missions. They do that to stop the spread of terrorism or at least try to keep it from our shores, to bring freedom to oppressed people so they can make their lives better and to protect their fellow soldiers. Soldiers do that because many love what they do, they love the job of soldiering, and for others, for us, so we may have a safe and secure supply of democracy and freedom.
Tonight, as I documented the leap of faith being made by two young farmers and thought about the ultimate sacrifice paid by one young soldier, I thought how very, very lucky we are to have these people around us and what an enormous debt of gratitude we owe both.
Thank you, U.S. farmers.
Thank you, U.S. soldiers.