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.
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.