A small family farming operation in south central Iowa has been singled out for its service to a soldier. Augustine and Sons, a 2,000 acre grain and livestock operation near Oskaloosa, is the first Iowa recipient of a national award for businesses who go the extra mile for an employee called to active duty.
Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Ron Dardis says First Sergeant Matt Strasser recently wrote a letter of thanks to his Iowa employers. "He said: ‘Thank you for letting me come and go during my last few weeks of work so I could spend time with my family. Thank you for allowing my family to live on the farm during my first deployment, rent free," Dardis says, reading from the letter.
"’Thank you for taking my boys fishing, watching their sports games while I’m gone and fixing their dirt bikes. Thank you for watching them while they’re sick so my wife, Jessica, can go to work, and for the flowers on our kitchen table when she’s had a rough day. Thank you for plowing winter’s snows from the drive and for taking time away from your families to help mine.’"
Dardis says among the "millions" of U.S. employers who have a Guard or Reserve soldier called to active duty, this farm near the small town of Rose Hill was among the handful honored. "This is a big deal," Dardis says. "There are only 15 such awards given each year in the country."
Dan, Mike and Keith Augustine were invited to Washington, D.C. this fall to receive the military’s award for their extra efforts for their farm hand’s family. Earlier today, the Augustines — along with the soldier’s wife and two sons — stood on the floor of the Iowa House of Representatives in Des Moines as lawmakers clapped and the Iowa Guard’s leader praised them.
"One of our values is selfless service," Dardis said. "Augustine and Sons has clearly demonstrated this enduring Iowa National Guard value." Strasser is currently serving in Afghanistan.