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Advocating for Farmer Veterans

veterans day boxIt is difficult to overstate the role that rural America plays in defending our country. While only 14 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural communities, nearly 45 percent of service men and women grew up in small and rural towns.

When veterans return home, many are looking for a new purpose. They can find that in agriculture. Farm Credit and 30 veterans were on Capitol Hill earlier this year to advocate for programs that support those transitioning from soldier to civilian. Many were farmer veterans and customers-owners of their local Farm Credit association.

Mike Reynolds, whose 18-year career in the U.S. Army ended with a traumatic brain injury, shared with lawmakers how he returned to Georgia uncertain of what the future held for him only to discover meaning under the mentorship of an area farmer. After being turned down by several lenders, Mike secured a loan through his local Farm Credit coop and today, has his own livestock operation.

“You don’t want to walk around and say, ‘I’m Mike, the disabled veteran,’ or . . . ‘I’m Mike who used to remember everybody in my little girl’s Sunday school class’s name.’ You want to be able to say, ‘I’m Mike something.’ Now I can say, ‘I’m Mike the farmer.”

Others on the trip to Washington, D.C., built post-military careers supporting agricultural producers, including Chris Obermeyer and Brooke Lukassen, vice president of credit operations and credit analyst, respectively, at FCSAmerica.

Brooke grew up on a farm in Kimball, Nebraska, and after earning her college degree, joined the Army Reserves, serving as a sergeant in the 443rd Transportation Company.

“My military career really taught me the importance of teamwork,” Brooke said. “There is nothing you can do, in my career choice, without an entire team working together.”

That team approach was evident on Capitol Hill, as veterans and Directors and leaders for local Farm Credits met with lawmakers. “A big part of we did was advocate for a strong farm bill and thank our representatives for their support,” Brooke recalled. “This is very important to our customers.”

Chris, a retired Air Force master sergeant, said he was drawn to FCSAmerica because its values mirror those of the military -- hard work, dedication, teamwork, strong leadership.

“I am thankful to work for an organization that has a passion for taking care of our teammates and customers. Working here, allows me the opportunity to stay connected to my ag roots and put into play the skills I learned while serving our country,” said Chris, who grew up helping his grandparents farm in southeastern Illinois. “I’m proud of the way our organization supports veterans and is committed to recognizing the contributions they make to our organization and country.”

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FCSAmerica serves farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and rural residents in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. For inquiries outside this geography, use the Farm Credit Association Locator  to contact your local office.