A touch of home on the front lines


Hello, my name is Sgt. Steve Ahrens and I am an Ohio National Guard member currently serving in Iraq. …

By Susan Crowell

SALEM, Ohio – Steve Ahrens’ e-mail from Iraq arrived April 27, taking the newsroom a little by surprise.

With the stress and hardships around him, why on earth would this serviceman take the time to e-mail Farm and Dairy?

Two weeks later, we received a similar e-mail from the mother of Pvt. Amanda Kibler.

Link to home. Farm and Dairy, it seems, has become a lifeline to both of these northeastern Ohio natives. The folks back home pack up each issue and send it to their loved ones serving abroad.

Both Ahrens and Kibler are members of the Ohio National Guard and serve in the 216th Engineer Battalion, based near Tikrit, Iraq.

I have been reading the Farm and Dairy as long as I can remember, Ahrens writes. My brother is sending me copies even while I am overseas.

Reading the agricultural news of northeast Ohio helps keep me connected to home.

Ahrens, who graduated from Ohio State University, was activated for Operation Iraqi Freedom with his Chillicothe unit in December. He is scheduled to serve in Iraq for up to 18 months.

Roots in Ravenna. He is one of three sons of Albert and Clara Ahrens, who own a club and commercial feeder pig near Ravenna in Portage County.

Steve could’ve opted out of going to Iraq because of a recurring knee injury, Albert said, but he chose to go anyway.

“He’s concerned,” the elder Ahrens said, “or obviously he wouldn’t be there.”

Both Albert and Clara Ahrens served in the military during the Vietnam era. “You know what to expect and you just hope for the best,” Albert said of his son’s missions.

Please continue the great reporting in the paper. I especially like the 4-H and FFA news because when I get back home, I will soon be looking for a job as an agriculture education teacher.

And agriculture is never far from Steve Ahrens’ mind, even in a war zone. He’s tending a patch of sweet corn he grew from seeds brought from home and he recently sent home a video that showed the local farmers harvesting wheat.

Stress reliever. Like Steve Ahrens, Amanda Kibler devours the Farm and Dairy issues sent by her mother Becky, who is back home in Homeworth, Ohio.

“It helps take her mind off the serious intensity of things going on around her for awhile,” Becky said. “Although the copies she receives are usually four to six weeks old, she can’t wait to see what is going on back home.”

Amanda participated in 4-H in Columbiana and Mahoning counties, and was the 2002 Ohio State Fair senior barrel champion, 2003 All American Youth National senior barrel champion and won plenty of other trophies atop her horse Little Red Rascal that she raised and trained.

She joined the National Guard in the fall of 2002 and graduated in the top 10 percent of 900 soldiers from basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., last fall, says her proud (but worried) mother.

Active duty. They say, “When you call out the Guard, you call out America”.

The Ohio National Guard currently has approximately 2,664 soldiers deployed. The National Guard and Reserve have 170,487 members currently on active duty.

* * *

Cards and letters

We know there are many men and women serving overseas today and while we don’t have all the addresses, here’s a way to reach out to our own two Farm and Dairy connections abroad:

Pvt. Kibler, Amanda J 0642

C Co. 216th Eng Bn

FOB Speicher – Iraq

APO AE O9392

Sgt. Ahrens, Steve

A Co. 216 Eng Bn 2nd plt

FOB Speicher

APO AE 09392

Readers: If you would like to share the addresses of other loved ones serving abroad, please send the names and information to: Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.


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