When Bill Broadie and his volunteers meet the troops, much is at steak.
Broadie, a Kansas cattleman, co-founded the All-American Beef Battalion (AABB). The organization has delivered nearly 500,000 steak dinners to troops in 26 states, including this past Saturday night for Bravo Battery soldiers in Yankton at Ernest Bowyer VFW Post 791.
The AABB’s motto is “thanking the troops one steak at a time.” The stated purpose is to encourage and assist service members and their families in any reasonable manner.
The organization also seeks “to foster among the people of the United States an appreciation, respect, and honor for our military service members whose sacrifices have, and will continue to make, our freedoms possible.”
Broadie’s granddaughter designed the organization’s logo of a cowboy shaking hands with a soldier. The idea promotes both an appreciation for the military and the promotion of U.S. agriculture, particularly the beef industry.
Broadie refers to himself as a “figurehead,” but he remains a driving force for the All-American Beef Battalion. He sat down with the Press & Dakotan Saturday afternoon as the crew set up for that night’s meal.
How did you get involved with the AABB, and how have your own military experiences shaped your decision to start this?
I served in Vietnam, was wounded twice and lost my right leg. When we returned home, we were called “baby killers” by the mainstream media. We had people spit on Vietnam veterans.
When we had the 9/11 attacks (on Sept. 11, 2001), I knew we would have a lot of soldiers serving in the war on terror. I didn’t want them to receive the same treatment we did when we came home from Vietnam.
I worked at Superior Livestock Auction in Kansas. I talked to (Superior Livestock CEO) Jim Odle about starting things up. I said, “Jim, it’s a crazy idea, but let’s do it” — and we did.
We applied for 501(c) 3 status. It normally takes 18 months, but the IRS granted our application in 38 days, and that included the time it took to use (the postal service).
Our first meal was 26 April ’08, but I was AWOL. My wife and I had already booked a trip to Hawaii. We were celebrating our anniversary and also my 60th birthday, because people thought I wouldn’t live to see my 20th birthday (because of my war injuries).
We have a core group of people who go on these (AABB) trips, but we also have different people on some of these trips. We’ve also gotten great support from (agriculture advocate and radio personality) Trent Loos.
Can you tell us about the meals?
We’ve served all numbers of people. Twice, we served 5,200 people and once we’ve served 5,400. One weekend, we served 5,200 at the Air Force Academy and 4,800 the next day at Fort Carson, Colorado.
We rely on donations, and then we buy the meat and the other food, like the potatoes and corn. Because we take the steaks across state lines, the meat has to come from federally inspected plants. A local locker owner in Dodge City, Kansas, picks up the steaks and ages it for us.
We wanted to serve these steak dinners to troops during their deployment, but it didn’t happen. So we decided we wanted to feed them a steak dinner to welcome them home or to wish them good luck when they shipped over (on deployment).
We also serve wounded warrior battalions. Those are some of the hardest ones for me because I can feel what they’re going through. I lost my leg in (Vietnam), and visiting with them takes you back to everything you went through yourself.
You have soldiers who feel guilty because they survived (the war) and others didn’t. But I want to see all of them to kick butt in life. I tell them they’ll get through it and that people still care about you now.
Can you tell us more about your visit to Yankton this weekend?
We want to show these troops that we’re grateful as a community. They were in Europe (rather than a combat zone), but they were still gone from their families for a year and were subject to a lot of things. Ever since 9/11, you don’t know where you’re going (on deployment).
We’re serving 18- to 20-ounce ribeyes, 1¼ inch thick. We used to serve green beans with the meal, but the Colorado corn growers stepped in to help us. Last year, they donated $55,000 and we now serve corn with the meals.
We bring all our own equipment. We use Southern Pride cookers, and we use smokers. We use the convection ovens for the potatoes and corn.
In the cooker, we can take care of 400-500 ribeyes at a time. It takes about two hours. We usually start cooking at 3 p.m. and are ready to serve the meals around 5 p.m.
What have been some of the most rewarding moments for you?
During Christmas a few years ago, we had the spouse of a soldier in Afghanistan and their 4-year-old daughter come up to me. The lady told the little girl, “Give this man a hug, because he’s doing this for us because of what your daddy is doing for our country.” The little girl came and grabbed me. I tell you, I shed a few tears.
Another time at Fort Sill, Gary Sinise (who played Lt. Dan in the movie “Forrest Gump”) brought his “Lt. Dan Band” to play for the troops. He plays at a lot of different bases, like Fort Hood.
What are your plans for AABB’s future?
We’re seeking assistance from President Trump to use U.S. Air Force empty flights out of Garden City for transporting equipment and food.
For me, this trip to Yankton was 510 miles (one way), and we have other people who come from places like Denver. We’ve had requests to go to northern New York, but that’s just too far to drive and take along the food and equipment. We figure the whole trip, including one day for the meal, would take about a week.
Our other goal is to serve a steak dinner to soldiers on deployment. Wouldn’t that be a great morale booster for our troops? But that’s where we would need something like the Air Force planes.
As far as the future, we plan to keep doing it. Right now, we’re working to raise more money. Which one of you wouldn’t want to buy a soldier a steak?
It’s the right thing to do. It can be done, and I intend to keep kicking doors open.
For more information or to make donations, visit online at www.steaksfortroops.com.
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