We salute the Florida man who drove his 1948 John Deere tractor across the country to support veterans

Mandatory Fun
C. Ivan Stoltzfus stands with his tractor and trailer in Florida in an undated photo that was shared on social media in September 2019. (Facebook photo)

A Sarasota man drove his modified 1948 John Deere tractor 5,500 miles across the country to support veterans.

C. Ivan Stoltzfus, a retired Sarasota farmer, took his cross-country trip, never going above 14 mph, to raise funds and awareness for Operation Second Chance, a nonprofit that provides emergency financial assistance to wounded, injured and ill service members and their families.

On May 10, he left Germantown, Maryland. He traveled alone, meeting veterans and their families along the way and sleeping in a camper that he pulled behind the tractor. On the road, people flagged him down to leave a donation or to talk about their family's experience in the military.

Stoltzfus isn't a veteran, but he's devoted to the cause.

"I always felt like I took my freedom for granted and I wanted to do my part," he said. "I've seen so many veterans come back into civil life, and just really struggle. I want to do something on my part to help bring awareness to the PTSD of veterans and first responders."

His inspiration to drive a tractor across the country came from his father, who drove his two-cylinder farming tractor across the country when he was 26.

"I thought, 'Some day I want to go for a cause,'" Stoltzfus said. "Later in life, my father said, 'Ivan, if you have a dream, don't wait you're too old to do it, just do it.' When I did get older, I thought, if I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it now."

Before Stoltzfus began his journey, his friend Jeremy Jackson gave him a gift to take with him on the road.

"He handed me a little box, I opened it up, and it had a purple heart in it," he said. "I said, 'Jeremy, I can't take that, you earned it.' With tears in his eyes, he said, 'I want you to take that with you.' I've been carrying it with me ever since."

Operation Second Chance is headquartered in Germantown, Maryland, and has a strong presence in Sarasota. It was founded in 2014 by Cindy McGrew. Three of her brothers served in Vietnam, and died in the past five years.

"I saw them self-medicate when I came home, I saw how they retreated from that war," McGrew said. "And I vowed at that time that I was not going to let that happen to future veterans. ... I thought that if I couldn't be there for my son or my daughter, I hope somebody would."


©2019 Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla.. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

A Purple Heart and Silver Star (Atlanta Journal-Constitution photo)

An Army veteran from Columbus claimed he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after a deployment in Afghanistan that earned him a Purple Heart and Silver Star.

As a result, he collected $76,000 in benefits for the mental condition.

He admitted Wednesday, however, that all of that was a lie.

He was not deployed to Afghanistan, never suffered PTSD and never received the two honors, which are among the highest bestowed for military service.

Read More Show Less
Rep. Duncan Hunter (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

SAN DIEGO — Days after Rep. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty to a federal felony related to a yearslong campaign finance scandal, he has finally stated explicitly that he will resign from his congressional seat before the end of his term.

"Shortly after the holidays I will resign from Congress," Hunter, R-Calif., in a statement. "It has been an honor to serve the people of California's 50th District, and I greatly appreciate the trust they have put in me over these last 11 years."

Read More Show Less
A Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Kodiak boat crew displays their new 38-foot Special Purpose Craft - Training Boat in Womens Bay Sept. 27, 2011. (Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Charly Hengen)

A collision between a Coast Guard boat and a Navy vessel near Kodiak Island, Alaska on Wednesday landed six coasties and three sailors to the hospital, officials said.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Jamarius Fortson)

The Navy has identified the two Defense Department civilians who were killed in a shooting Wednesday at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Navy photo)

A shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida has left four people dead, including the gunman, law enforcement officials said at a Friday news conference.

The shooter and two victims were killed at the base and another victim died after being taken to the hospital, said Chip Simmons, deputy chief of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.

Another seven people remain hospitalized, including two sheriff's deputies who engaged the gunman, Simmons said at Friday's news conference. One was hit in the arm and the other was shot in the knee. Both are expected to recover.

Read More Show Less