Honoring Veteran Farmers

Tara Desmond

Nov 10, 2021  |  Today's News |  ICMB

IL Corn got a chance to catch up with veteran farmer Chris Gould (Gould) right before Veterans Day.  After asking some questions and getting to know a couple of Gould’s experiences here’s a little glimpse into his story.

Raised on a family-owned farm, Chris is no stranger to hard work which he admitted helped him during his service.   He served in the Navy for 10 years from 91 – 01.  After his service and with a degree from U of I, Gould returned to the farm where he’s been an owner-operator for 16 years now.  While we wish we could’ve talked with him longer about his experiences, here were a couple questions we asked:

  • Tell me about a couple memorable experiences.
    • It’s honestly hard to pick only a couple because I had so many but here’s a couple I’ll share.
      • 1996 – Flying over Iraq
        • In 1996, we were between two gulf wars so at the time there wasn’t active shooting.  Our battle group helped to enforce a no-fly zone (to keep Saddam Hussein from flying over his country).  While monitoring we also practiced running bombing missions to prepare for potential live strikes.  At times we would be “lit up” by Iraqi SAM radars, which we had the ability to jam or destroy but it was still stressful to say the least.
      • My service ended in 2001, three weeks after to the September 11th attacks. 
        • When 9/11 occurred, I was flying onto a carrier off the  Virginia coast.  We were immediately loaded with live missiles and given orders to be on alert the next 3 days.  This meant we had jets ready on catapults and we were in full gear so (if needed) we could launch in under 15 minutes ready to intercept anything that may be headed toward the east coast.  It was a very surreal time with a lot of unknowns.
  • How did being in the Navy influence your owning and operating your farm?
    • They both impacted each other.  After flight school and getting winged, I was assigned to fly F/A-18s. It was wonderful working with a top-notch group of officers and enlisted in my first fleet squadron, VFA-81 Sunliners.  My call sign was Farmer and it’s not hard to guess that I was the butt of many pig jokes.   Growing up on the farm, it helped me to grow an innate work ethic that I’ve now had my entire life but helped to contribute to my success while serving.
    • Transitioning to running a full-time small business in 2005 was made easier from skills I learned while in the Navy.  While not airborne one of my “collateral duties” was leading as many as 70 maintenance personnel.  Today I run a farm with several employees, so all my previous leadership experience helped to more easily transition into running a small business.  I still use my aviation skills – 20 years later – flying for FedEx.

It is easy to see the similarities with farming and serving in the military.  In both, we think of honor, sacrifice, leadership, loyalty and freedom.  A big thank you to Chris and all those who have served from IL Corn.