Published on Monday, November 4, 2019
Like many farm kids, he was driving tractors before he even started kindergarten. With deep roots in the farming industry and both of his grandpas farming before him, Tom Frank knew he wanted to continue their legacy.
But it wasn’t just their love for farming that they passed down to Tom. Both of his grandpas also served in the U.S. military. Tom grew up with that same sense of responsibility to serve his country and joined the National Guard out of high school.
“I always knew I would farm, but I wanted to see something else before I did,” said Tom. “I wanted to serve my country — the best country on earth — and do my small, little part. It’s like farming. We have a very small piece of the puzzle, but it takes everybody.”
Tom now works on his family’s hog farm operation, which includes about 1,200 acres of corn and soybeans, with his brother and dad. It wasn’t easy for him to leave the farm, but at 18, he also craved a little bit of adventure.
Tom was deployed to Kuwait when he was 20 years old. His squad oversaw convoy security to multiple bases in Iraq and back. Although he trained to be a mechanic, he ended up as one of four gunners in his 12-person squad.
“There were probably 80 semis in the convoy when it was all said and done, making us about three to five miles long,” Tom said. “There was a gun truck in front, I was in the back, and then there would be two in-between.”
Tom said the toughest aspect of his time in the military was being away from his family, home, and the farm.
“In the fall of 2009, I came home,” he said with a smile. “It was a really wet fall. I had two weeks leave during the end of October and the first week of November, and they had hardly done anything until I got home. I was able to help a little bit. We got a lot done before I had to go back over.”
His hope was that in joining the National Guard as a mechanic, he would learn valuable skills that could translate to the farm. Even though that didn’t work out, his time in the military taught him a lot about teamwork, leadership, and service — all of which apply to his farming career.
“If you have a good leader in the military, you can have a really good culture,” said Tom. “If you have a bad leader, you can have a poisonous culture. I learned what a good leader does and doesn’t do.”
In addition to his lessons in leadership, Tom soon realized that the strategy in decision making was very similar on the farm and in the military.
“In the military, you don’t have much time to make decisions,” he said. “You have to make them and go on with life. That translates to farming as well. You make the best decisions you can with the information you have at that time, and you live with it, whether it’s good or bad.”
Tom is one of many farmers who have sacrificed time away from their livelihoods and families to protect the freedom we all enjoy here in the United States. As we observe Veteran’s Day this month, I’d like to say thank you to Tom, and all veterans, for your commitment and service to your country and community.
Author: Ashley Heyen
Categories: CropTalk, 2019