Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the Spring 2009 issue of The Hoosier Farmer. It is being reprinted with Mr. Villwock's permission.
I get to do a lot of neat things being your president, but in February I had the great honor of attending the deployment ceremony of Indiana's 1-19th Agribusiness Development Team.
Major Gen. Martin Umbarger, adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard, was kind enough to extend me this life-changing opportunity for which I am ever grateful.
You may remember reading in our winter issue of The Hoosier Farmer about these brave women and men who are being deployed to Afghanistan to support the global war against terrorism. It was an impressive ceremony for friends and family. But it truly made me reflect on the commitment these soldiers and their families make on behalf of our country and the freedoms we too often take for granted.
I could not find enough heartfelt words to thank them for their sacrifices of time, talent and unquestioned bravery so the would will be a safer place for us all. To them all I say: God Speed and may you return safely and soon to our shores.
The thoughts and visions of that day remain in my head and I think of all of the others that have gone before them. I thought of my now 89-year-old dad and how it must have been for him to leave the farm, friends and family to head off to World War II. I have been thinking of al the soldiers throughout the history of this great nation who have made this commitment and of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for everyone of us so we could enjoy our freedoms. I have always had the greatest respect for our veterans but somehow, someway, seeing them that day ready to head overseas has elevated my respect for them all.
But I also think this event makes me even madder as almost daily we hear and read stories about companies and executives who have abused the freedoms and ethical values that these soldiers have fought hard to preserve. I just returned from a conference, and one of the speakers talked about his favorite book, Cowboy Ethics -- What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West, by James P. Owen.
This speech too reminded me some in the ivory towers have violated these basic tenets. Yes, I know there are some bad cowboys as there are some bad farmers, but I believe our rural upbringing instilled these great core values into a great many of you.
Let me give you some chapter titles from Owen and Cowboy Ethics: 1. Live each day with courage, 2. Take pride in your work, 3. Always finish what you start 4. Do what has to be done, 5. Be tough but fair, 6. When you make a promise, keep it, 7. Ride for the brand, 8. Talk less say more 9. Remember that some things are not for sale, and finally 10. Know where to draw the line.
I have read this short little book, which is enhanced by beautiful photos of the West, and I recommend you read it and give it to those you love. Yes, it says "cowboy ethics" -- Mr. Owen, please forgive me but I think the values you speak of are the same ones my dad and mother taught me on a tractor seat rather than a saddle.
The America that these soldiers are fighting for and the America I love is the America that lives by, respects and honors these basic "farmer ethics."