Erin Brenneman
Erin Brenneman

We all have our battles. Some are big, some are small, but all are relative to how they make us feel and their importance to us. Some battles are fought silently inside our heads and some are right there out in the open for everyone to see.  

I think it is easy to agree that one of the most ultimate of battles is physical war and the heroes of those battles are our brave soldiers who give up so much in the name of our country and what we stand for. It is out of these battles that we have heard so many heart wrenching stories of sorrow and heroic tales of bravery. But until you physically meet some of these individuals face to face they remain simply an amazing story.

I recently crossed paths with a man who has one of these stories. The impact hit me hard and stayed in my mind enough to write about it.

I was just returning from a getaway with my husband as we celebrated our 10th anniversary with some family and friends. Weary and tired from the trip home we walked off our plane and headed to the never ending baggage claim area at Chicago-O’Hare airport. Exhausted as we were, we were anxious to get back home to the farm. It was here in the bustling hallway that we noticed a service dog following a gentleman around, no leash, just ever dedicated to being by his side. I realized that this was not a Seeing Eye dog, but I was unclear on his real purpose. We smiled and nodded as we moved past one another and carried on.

It was only a few minutes later that this man, his dog, and some friends were waiting at the same baggage carousel as us. Immediately my husband’s brother-in-law, who served a tour in Afghanistan in 2004, seemed to recognize the man and his dog. He said excitedly and stunned, “That’s the lone survivor.” He walked up to him, shook his hand and took a picture with him.

At the time, I was unaware of who he was even referring to, so I simply just watched those two exchange a few words. We grabbed our bags and we were off. As we climbed into the car I started to become more curious about this person who was so easily recognized. I, of course, Googled the “Lone Survivor” and began to read his story. 

His name is Marcus Luttrell and his story is one of those of enormous sorrow, bravery, and heroics. If you have not yet heard of him or his story you absolutely must look it up and read it. The “Lone Survivor” is a book and also a movie. Marcus Luttrell was one of four Navy SEALs who were assigned a mission to take down a high ranking member of the Taliban in 2005. The mission ultimately was compromised and the team endured an extremely violent fight with Taliban fighters who had discovered their location. 

Eight members of the SEALs and eight Army special operations soldiers came by helicopter to help rescue the team and were shot down. Each one of those members on board was killed. Marcus Luttrell endured many extensive injuries as he attempted to fight off the Taliban and escape to safety. He was rescued by a group of villagers who hid and protected him for several days in their homes shuffling him from place to place to evade being captured and killed. He was eventually extricated and brought back to U.S. soil to begin his recovery. He was the lone survivor of that mission. And here he was, standing next to me waiting for his bags at the baggage claim.

His story is obviously humbling and amazing to anyone who hears of it. And I am sure at this point you are asking yourself, how is this ever going to pertain to raising pigs on a family farm in Iowa? The answer is that it doesn’t really have much to do with raising pigs but rather to do with standing up for what you believe in and respecting those who have defended that right.   

This experience really moved me. I didn’t get a picture with Marcus Luttrell when we saw him in the airport that day; I didn’t even speak to him. Yet here before me stood a man who laid down everything to defend his country so that I might be able to go about my day as I normally would as a farmer. There are so many people out there like him, who are willing to fight these battles for us. It makes me think about our battles as farmers, fighting for our right to raise animals in the best possible way, in the name of providing affordable food for people who not only just enjoy it but need it. So many people like Mr. Luttrell have suffered and fought so that we may continue to have rights like that.

Thinking of these people and what they do every day really puts our battles into perspective. To me, it seems senseless that we worry over a small percentage of the population who want to take away that divine right to farm and attempt to instill fear into others who are misinformed. We will continue to stand up for ourselves, share our passion for agriculture, and help feed a growing world. We will continue to teach and share with our children how great farming is and how honorable it is to be a part of the agriculture community.

When my brother-in-law thanked Mr. Luttrell after that picture for all he had done, he said, “I didn’t do anything you wouldn’t have done.” It was such an inspiring event that has given me such great motivation to continue to raise my pigs the way I know is right.

On behalf of everyone at Brenneman Pork, I would like to say thank you to our troops for that great opportunity to continue to do what we love to do.