Vehicles Honor Military Service

Midwest Old Threshers Reunion displays pay tribute to American troops.

| April 2018

More than 1,000 antique tractors were displayed at the 2017 Midwest Old Threshers Reunion. But only one served as a memorial to American military veterans. Had it been left original, the 1951 Farmall Model M would be lucky to get a second look. Fully restored to like-new condition, it might have caused a few onlookers to slow their pace.

But clad in a fresh coat of gleaming black paint and bearing the names of Iowa’s POW/MIA soldiers from the Vietnam era, the Model M commanded attention.

The tractor was a summer project for three Iowa teenagers. Classmates A.J. Killen, Dakota Buchanan and Cole Wilson, all 17 and all of Carlisle, Iowa, joined forces on what would be their first solo restoration.

When Mike Killen, A.J.’s dad, bought the tractor at an auction, he had a donor tractor in mind. The Farmall was not, perhaps, the best candidate for restoration. It showed more than a little wear, and its head gasket was blown. But then the kids got involved, and everything changed.

The boys spent a day putting on a new head. When they got it running again, on July 3, they celebrated by entering the Farmall in the local July 4 parade. “The tractor was red on the Fourth of July,” A.J. says. “We finished it just before the Warren County fair at the end of July.”

Honoring their service

The Farmall then began to take shape as a memorial to Iowa soldiers identified as POW/MIA from the Vietnam War. It was no random decision. Mike’s cousin, John D. Killen, was 19 in 1967 when he was reported missing during active duty in Vietnam. Mike conducted research and came up with a list of Iowa soldiers still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, and the decision was made to paint the list of 24 names – and that of John Killen – on the tractor.