Ohio ‘farm boy’ shares life in Iraq

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(Editor’s note: The May 27 Farm and Dairy shared the front page photograph of Sgt. Steve Ahrens, a Portage County farm native who is currently serving in Iraq with his Ohio National Guard unit. And just after we had gone to press, we received this e-mail from Steve, which we share here with his permission.)

Dear Farm and Dairy:

Thanks for this opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings with people at home.

I know that the news out of Iraq is rarely positive, so I would like to start out by sharing my experiences about some of the good things that are happening here.

Every time we drive through the countryside and towns, we see people waving and smiling at us. While not everyone is friendly, most people here just want to go about their lives.

Everyday, I see jobs being created for out-of-work Iraqis.

Facing adversity. What I notice the most is how people continue to drive on, despite hardship in their lives.

Especially farmers. Just like at home, they really don’t care about who is in charge of the country, they just want to live their lives in peace.

Here in Iraq, almost all agriculture is irrigated. Last year, because of the war, many canals and ditches were damaged and many crops ruined. Over the winter, the farmers went out and made repairs just like farmers do at home when something breaks.

The life of a farmer anywhere in the world seems to be much the same.

Farm life is farm life. As I travel around the country, I am continually surprised at how many of the farming activities I witness remind me of home.

Some examples: In April, I saw a boy pulling as hard as he could on the lead of a cow, just like I did many times as a boy with my 4-H steers. This month is the wheat harvest and as I pass field after field of wheat being harvested by hard-working people, it reminds me of many hot summer days baling straw and hay.

The hot dusty wind reminds me of times in the fields all day being covered in dirt.

Miss home. Most of my free time is spent thinking of home, my wife, family, and friends that I miss very much.

Soldiers are always discussing what we are going to do when we get home, even though we all realize that going home is a long time away.

The family-like bond we have here helps everyone deal with the stress.

We enjoy any local news from home even though by the time most of it reaches us it is weeks old.

As we near the halfway point of our tour, I am thankful for all of the support I have received from home and look forward to having a lifetime to share the experiences I have had here with others.

Sgt. Steve Ahrens

Tikrit, Iraq

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