Bill Broadie, a cattleman from Ashland, Kansas, was a Marine in a combat zone in Vietnam when he was just 19.
Broadie has been a cattleman all of his life and has been a Superior Livestock representative for 18 years. Several years ago he called Jim Odle, the owner of Superior in Brush, Colorado.
“I called him up and told him I had a crazy idea,” he said. “We met in Limon, and I said, I know this is crazy. I told him what my idea was and he looked at me and said, ‘We can do it.’”
The crazy idea was to serve active duty military personnel a beef ribeye dinner to show the troops the deep appreciation of the cattle industry. Broadie put together a board of members he calls “work-minded people,” and they got down to business ensuring that current military members would never feel the disrespect Broadie and his brothers in arms felt returning home from Vietnam.
“If you surround yourself with great people, it makes you look awful good,” he said. “That’s what I did.”
To date, the All American Beef Battalion has spanned eight years, 24 states, and is approaching 325,000 steaks served.
In the time the Beef Battalion has existed, not a single salary has been paid in the organization that relies entirely on donations, mostly coming from families within the beef industry.
Cross Diamond Red Angus, owned by Scott and Kim Ford in Bertrand, Nebraska, sell the 21st lot on their sale and call it the 21 Gun Salute with the proceeds going to the Beef Battalion. Pat Gebauer and Luan August of Cardinal Charolais in Hillrose, Colorado, sell a purebred Charolais heifer in their sale to benefit the Battalion.
“Oklahoma City Stockyards every December does a rollover auction for us,” Broadie said. “Last year they made $60,000 in 20 minutes.”
Several other sale barns also host rollover sales to benefit the program. There are also a number of ranches that sell beef cattle in their sale and donate the proceeds to the Battalion. Colorado Corn Growers has supported the program to the tune of nearly $100,000.
“Everyone is here because they want to be,” he said. “Members of the Beef Battalion buy and own much of the equipment. All the money goes directly to the mission.”
Broadie said the cattle industry has been generous but he hopes to see more cattlemen, especially cattlemen’s groups, become active in supporting the program. Broadie’s brow furrows a bit when he poses the question, “Which one of you wouldn’t buy a soldier a steak?”
The group of volunteers that make up the Beef Battalion are close-knit and share the bond of not only the cattle business but a gratitude to the military men and women serving their country. Trent Loos, a sixth generation Nebraska cattleman, has been involved with the Battalion since its inception.
“You’re interacting with somebody that today is on a recreational day with their family and within 10 days of us feeding them, they’re the fiercest warriors in the world protecting our freedom,” Loos said.
The irony, according to Loos, is the humble soldiers repeatedly thanking the Beef Battalion volunteers for the meal when it’s really just a small gesture of thanks and gratitude.
This is the story that drives Trent Loos daily. The Beef Battalion volunteers were feeding soldiers in Irving, Texas, at the Third Annual George W. Bush Wounded Warrior Golf Outing. Loos was visiting with retired four-star Gen. Jimmy Williams about thanking the soldiers.
“Williams told me, ‘Don’t forget, every one of these kids has lost a limb, most of them lost a comrade at their side,’” Loos recalled. “‘If you really want to thank them for their sacrifice, you will exercise the rights they have protected for you.’”
The freedom of speech is the right at the top of that list and one that Loos fiercely loves. On his daily radio show, he pays tribute to the troops as Gen. Williams would see fit.
The Wounded Warriors is a group that holds an even sweeter spot in Broadie’s heart. “I spent 20 months in the Marine Corps and spent seven and a half months of it in the hospital,” he said. “I know what those kids are going through.”
In the eight years the Beef Battalion has been thanking soldiers for their service, the list of unsung heroes has grown; volunteers across the country have become loyal contributors to the mission, and the volunteers have had the chance to shake the hands and hug the necks of hundreds of thousands of soldiers.
“The amazing part of the evolution isn’t that it worked for one time, one month, one year,” Loos said. “Here we are eight years later on the top side of 320,000 people who have been fed, told thank you to, and there are still volunteers packing up and driving hundreds of miles to be a part of this.”
Josh Williams, a volunteer from Garden City, Kansas, called the volunteers a family made up of “extended dads, uncles, and rowdy cousins.”
“They all care about each other and getting the mission done,” Broadie said. “They’re as close to good Marines as I’ve had since I came home from Vietnam, and I was pretty proud of my Marines over there.”
The Beef Battalion will be feeding over 10,000 military men and women in August alone and donations are always needed. To donate, visit www.steaksfortroops.com or like All American Beef Battalion on Facebook.
Images courtesy of Trent Loos and SteaksForTroops.com