A tractor and a cause

RAISING AWARENESS: Ivan Stoltzfus stands in front of the 1948 John Deere A tractor fitted with a 1984 359 Peterbilt cab he is driving across the country to raise awareness for military veterans with PTSD. People can donate to help PTSD programs or follow his journey at HelpAmericanHeroes.com.

Pinned to the dash of Ivan Stoltzfus’s John Deere tractor is a Purple Heart a veteran asked Stoltzfus to carry with him, a silent reminders of why the Pennsylvania man is driving across the country to raise awareness of the struggles facing veterans and their families.

Stoltzfus left Pennsylvania driving the tractor in October. He rested for a few cold months in Florida, then took off in February to pass through Texas on his way to California. He will return home to his family and job as an auctioneer by way of Montana.

Along the way, he is sharing with anyone he can the stories veterans and military service members have shared with him.

He is collecting donations through his website HelpAmericanHeroes.com, and will donate it to programs benefiting former service members with post-traumatic stress disorder when he returns home, he said.

TRAVEL COMPANIONS: Jeremy Jackson’s Purple Heart, earned when he was wounded in the Iraq War, holds a place of honor inside the tractor’s cab along with photos of other military members who were killed in action. Their families had asked him to carry their photos on his cross country journey, Ivan Stoltzfus said.

The Purple Heart was a gift from Jeremy Jackson, a Pennsylvania veteran who came with his wife and daughters. Jackson had been a sharpshooter wounded in Iraq. He also has PTSD.

“I was never in the military, but I always felt like I needed to go back and make it up somehow. I felt like I took my freedom for granted,” Stoltzfus explained.