A Salute to Dairy Farmer Veterans this Memorial Day
May 28, 2021
With Memorial Day approaching many people are sporting flipflops and getting ready to head out to the local swimming hole.
A different story unfolds for dairy farmers, who lace up their boots and head to the barn 365 days a year, even on a national holiday. While farmers don’t stop farming for Memorial Day, they do proudly wave the red, white and blue, illustrating the pride they have for their country.
For some dairy farmers, saluting the flag strikes a deeper meaning, as they have served in the United States military.
Adam Jackanicz, U.S. Air Force Reserve
Alliance Dairies’ veterinarian and milk quality supervisor, Adam Jackanicz from Trenton, Fla., is actively serving in the U.S. Air Force Reserve as the Public Health Officer for the 932nd Medical Squadron.
Despite being told the Air Force would never let him fly due to his poor uncorrected eyesight, Jackanicz always knew he would join the Air Force someday. Adam accepted a scholarship to college, focusing on veterinary medicine as his ‘Plan B,’ and while Plan B worked, he said something was still missing. Enlisting between his first and second year of vet school; Adam says his only regret is that he did not sign up sooner.
Adam’s day job has him working with some 10,000 cows at Alliance Dairies, and he says that the core values of the Air Force are lockstep with what it takes to succeed in the dairy industry. “Air Force is integrity first, service before self and excellence in all that we do,” he adds.
Military roots run deep in Adam’s family, going back to his grandfather who fought in World War II. Many of his family members have served, including his wife, who was deployed to help with a testing station during COVID-19. “I guess you could call it a family tradition,” Adam says. “Someone must take the responsibility to pick up the sword and shield.”
On 9/11 Adam was on his way to a farm call when he learned of the tragic news. Immediately he picked up the phone to enlist back into the reserves. In March 2002 he was able to complete the transition from enlisted to an officer and served with three separate units in California, New Mexico and Texas until 2009 and then reenlisted once again in 2020. “The group of all-volunteer service individuals are phenomenally talented and could be doing something else,” Adam says. “But they’re not.”
Kyle Hayes, U.S. Navy
In northeast Texas, first generation dairy farmer Kyle Hayes is proud to have served in the U.S. Navy from 1971 to 1975. Kyle admittedly says that he had not traveled far from home, so he joined the Navy. When arriving at bootcamp in Orlando, Fla., and stepping off the bus, Kyle says he got hit with a big dose of reality. “It was like a scene out of Forrest Gump,” he says. “There were many hippies, I wasn’t one of them, but the guys in charge were in my face and reminding me of what was to come.”
Kyle says that he still remembers the 4 a.m. wakeup call his first day at bootcamp, which he says prepared him for the future once he left the Navy, with early wake up calls once he returned home to farm in Texas. Beginning with a 215-head beef cow farm, Kyle made the transition to milking cows more than three decades ago.
The Texas dairy farmer shines bright with pride—for his country, for his farm and his family. He is very proud of his son, Kyle Jr., who has helped shape up the family farm to what it is today, but also grateful that his son understands service work, by volunteering in church.
Service work that the 69-year-old veteran selflessly illustrated during his time served in the Navy. Kyle says that both serving in the military and being a dairy farmer has taught him a lot about the true meaning of hard work, commitment and sacrifice. “They both instill purpose,” he adds.
Nathan Roth, U.S. Navy
Second generation dairy farmer, Nathan Roth milks 250 cows and farms 1,600 acres of corn silage, rye, wheat, grass hay, along with some pasture, with his children, Kane and Terra, on their family farm in Mountain Grove, Mo.
After graduating high school, Nathan joined the U.S. Navy. “I was a patriotic country boy, and our culture back then backed the government,” he says. “I felt like I was doing the right thing to enlist.”
Nathan served for four years, including a 12-month, land-based service time in Vietnam. Returning home from the war came with a lot of emotions, as he says the veterans were not properly welcomed back home. However, Nathan said he was thankful for the G.I. bill that entirely funded the education of veterans. Nathan graduated with a degree in accounting from Southwest Missouri State College. “I knew I should take advantage of going to college on the G.I. bill and I’m glad I did,” he says. “Without the G.I. bill, I would not have gone to college.”
Dairy farming is a way of life for the 71-year-old. Nathan does not set an alarm clock; his eyes automatically open at 2:30 in the morning. “I always knew I would come back to the family farm,” he says. “There is nothing else I’d rather do. I turn the barn lights on, go get the cows in and milk them every day.”
His daughter Terra helps milk and cares for the calves on the farm, while his son Kane assists him with crops, mixing feed and the overall herd health duties.
Nathan was always steadfast knowing he would return to the family farm, but also certain he would join the military. “There are two group of people that I’m extremely proud to be a part of—Vietnam Vets and dairy farmers,” Nathan says.