A 72-year-old Sarasota man ended a 5,500-mile journey on Saturday that was completed entirely on a tractor.
Hundreds of people gathered to welcome home and pay tribute to C. Ivan Stoltzfus, who rode his 1948 John Deere Model A for six months semi-cross country, going from Maryland to Montana and then back to Florida, all to raise money and awareness for wounded warriors.
He says, “Any parking lot I pull in, gas station I pull in, a number of veterans, policemen even come and just say ‘thank you for what you’re doing’.”
Using mainly back roads while avoiding highways, Stoltzfus crossed the country at 10 mph. A camper which was pulled by the tractor advertised the trip’s organizer, Operation Second Chance, in addition to Stoltzfus’ mission, “Across America for Wounded Heroes.”
Operation Second Chance is a Maryland-based aid organization that helps wounded veterans, particularly those who are living with post traumatic stress disorder.
Driving this @JohnDeere tractor, Ivan Stoltzfus has traveled through 18 states and will end a 5,600 mile journey tomorrow in Sarasota. He’s working to raise awareness for veterans and the group @OpSecondChance #Sarasota pic.twitter.com/W4l8gTnUYE
— Kim Kuizon FOX 13 (@kkuizon) October 11, 2019
Stoltzfus adds, “The tractor brings attention. It’s a weird looking thing along the road and I always said, ‘the camper is our billboard’.”
He explains that the tractor’s patriotic design typically encourages veterans and police officers, some of whom are dealing with PTSD, to connect with him. “They’re taught to hide their emotions, suck up and move on,” says Stoltzfus, who is not a veteran. Furthermore, “I have a love for people. I’m sensitive, especially when they’re hurting. When I see someone hurting, I hurt.”
This was Stoltzfus’ third trip of its kind.
As he addressed the crowd gathered in front of a restaurant, which included several wounded heroes, he thanked them for their support and the veterans who made sacrifices for others.