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Left for Dead: A Soldier's Second Life After Vietnam

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
September 4, 2023 3:03 am

Left for Dead: A Soldier's Second Life After Vietnam

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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September 4, 2023 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, in Vietnam, the armored personnel carrier Jon Hovde was driving hit an anti-tank mine. The 20-year-old soldier made three promises to God if He would let him live. Linda from Jon’s hometown of Fertile, MN, is here to tell the story. 

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See app for details. And we continue with our American stories for the past five years. Reader's Digest has been searching all across America for places that have great stories about nice people. They call these towns the nicest places in America. We partnered with Reader's Digest to bring their storytellers to our listeners.

And today we bring one such story. And it comes from a small town in Minnesota called, of all things, Fertile. And a native there tells us why her small town is one of the nicest places in America. Hi, my name is Linda, and here is why I think Fertile is one of the nicest places in the United States.

We live in a small community in northwest Minnesota, population approximately 800 people. Fertile has no traffic lights. Everybody knows your name.

And we believe our town has the biggest heart. We have many residents in Fertile that we could talk about that one man, John Hovde, touched all our lives in some way or another. John was born in 1947, spending all his childhood in Fertile. He graduated from Fertile High School in 1965. After graduation, John moved to California, and that is where he met his future wife, Darlene.

And they would go on to be married happily for 49 years. In 1967, at the age of 19, John entered the army and was sent to Vietnam. He did not need to go because he was his mother's only son, but he wanted to fight for God and country. He was driving a personal carrier and was alone inside the driver's compartment. His carrier hit a mine and the explosion ripped through the 3.5 inch steel bottom of the carrier.

John did not know at that time that his left leg had been blown off above the knee and his left arm just below the shoulder. While on an ice blanket, Johnny made three vows to God if his life would be spared. Those three promises were to have the fastest car in Polk County, not to be dependent on the government, and to make a difference in the lives of others.

He fulfilled all three of those promises. John and Darlene have two children and five grandchildren, and so enjoyed spending time with their family and friends together. John led a life of dedication through his service on the local school board, on the board of his church, a member of the American Legion, the VFW, the DAV, on the board for the local fair, and was also president of the Minnesota State School Board.

He was also writing Left for Dead. With his many stays in the hospital over the years, many caregivers and nurses were given a signed copy of his book. He spoke to many groups, large and small, but the speeches closest to his heart were those he made to school children from kindergarten to seniors.

You couldn't call them speeches as he spoke from the heart, and his message to everyone was to make a difference. Over the years, John has had many surgeries, but the summer of 2018 was especially hard for the Hovde family. Many trips to the hospital, to the Mayo Clinic, and then the terrible news of the hated word, cancer. News of John's diagnosis of cancer and that he would be coming home on hospice spread through town and our community pretty fast. Now the question arose, what can we do as a community to show our support, love, and respect for John and his family? A parade was suggested, and then it was a go with the family's blessing.

So dates and times changed many times. We were in contact with the family so we could let the community know the details, but still trying to keep it a secret from John. We received word that he would be coming home on October 23rd, but that time had changed many times throughout the afternoon. Fertile had a home football game that night, and the football team dedicated their game to Johnny, bringing home a big win, 50 to 0, over arrival. The weather was cold, there was a strong wind, and as the time of their arrival pushed now into the evening, we were afraid that everyone after the game would go home to warm up.

Not fertile residents. Finally we had a definite time and we put the word out on social media that John was just out of the fertile. It was an amazing sight to see and to be a part of. Cars lined up on both sides of the highway with patriotic music playing, our church on Main Street ringing their church bells, and American flags flying high on the route. Residents, family, neighbors, and friends, plus perfect strangers stood outside in the cold to welcome Johnny home. All waving the American flag, many holding signs, and many with tears to be experiencing such a moving experience. John and his family were welcomed home from the Mayo Clinic with a fleet of fire trucks and sheriff vehicles from fertile and the surrounding towns, and our EMS truck all with flashing lights and sirens going.

This fleet led the family from about 10 miles out of fertile all the way to their home north of fertile. Our city mayor proclaimed October 23 as John Hovde Day. Sadly John passed away on November 2, 2018 to be missed by his family and friends and his community. At his funeral there was standing room only with the Native American honor guard in attention inside the church and outside at the graveside in the cold. One thing that most of us admired about Johnny is that he never acted like he had a disability.

He loved to hunt, fished, and golfed. Because of COVID concerns, our seniors did not get to participate in a normal graduation service. So again, fertile led the way and made beautiful banners of each of our fertile Beltrami seniors that were placed on the light poles in town. On graduation day the community came together with the seniors standing beneath their banners and the community driving by to congratulate each of them. Fertile also hosts every year the biggest county fair in a tri-state area. All of these that I have mentioned were made possible because of all the volunteers in our area who over the years have donated thousands of hours of time, their big farming machinery, manual labor, and fuel costs to make it possible.

No dream is too big. As you can tell, I'm very proud of our community. I'm very happy to tell everyone that I am from fertile, the flower city. If you are in the area, please stop in. There's always coffee to be served.

And if you are lucky, you will get an Updale donut as well. Thank you. And great job as always by Greg Hengler on the production. And a special thanks to Linda for sharing her story and the story of her town, which she believes is the nicest place in America. We want to hear your stories about your town and why you think it qualifies for such distinction. And we also thank Reader's Digest for sharing this great story with us about a downright nice place. And as our listeners know, this story isn't an exception to the rule. People across this country are doing nice and good things for each other each and every day.

If you have stories like these, we want to hear them. Share them at and go to the Your Stories tab. And if you want more stories from Reader's Digest's Nicest Places in America series, go to forward slash nicest. And by the way, what a story about one of the products of this small town in northwest Minnesota. And by the way, it's people.

Any town's people are the product in the end. And I keep thinking about John Hovde, who volunteered to go off and fight in Vietnam. And he lost a leg above the knee and a right arm. And what did he do? He made three promises to God to have the fastest car in Polk County, to not be dependent on the government and to be of service to others. And he lived all three of those promises to God out.

The story of fertile Minnesota here on Our American Stories. Most TVs are smart nowadays, but with busy home screens and remotes with too many or too few buttons, smart shouldn't mean complicated. That's why Roku TV is the smart TV made easy. The customizable home screen puts your inputs, streaming favorites like iHeart and free live TV all in one place. From simple settings anyone can understand, automatic updates with the latest features and much more. Roku TV is more than a smart TV. It's a better TV. Learn more today at

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-04 04:50:57 / 2023-09-04 04:55:46 / 5

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