Should you wonder why it’s important to honor veterans, visit with Joe Farris, Vincennes, Ind. His experiences in the U.S. Army and the Korean War revealed his mettle — the same qualities that would help him raise vegetables and melons, and five now-successful kids.
“Dad and Mom taught us the value of hard work,” says Joe’s son Jim Farris, who farms and operates a Pioneer dealership. Jim is a 2018 Master Farmer.
“I heard the best thing a man can do for his children is give them a good mother, and I did that,” Joe says. His wife, Edith, died in 2011.
Joe still has the 1954 Chevrolet 10-wheel truck he used to deliver watermelons to 11 states.
“He did stuff you wouldn’t do today, like drive into downtown Chicago to deliver a hundred watermelons here and more there,” Jim says. “We’ll hang on to that truck.”
Midst of battle
Joe graduated from Indiana University in three years and chose to enlist in the Army. He completed basic training and then officer candidate school. Before going overseas, he was sent to Camp Stoneman in California.
“My buddies said I’d be there a couple days and ship out,” Joe recalls. “I was there 15 days, and my orders were to fly. They sent me on a commercial Pan Am flight. A fellow going over to coach Japanese baseball sat beside me, and a Navy man going to command the USS Missouri was close by. There were also Air Force brass.
“We got to Hawaii, and they put a lei around each of our necks. We got to Japan, and a Navy band welcomed the commander. A delegation picked up the baseball guy. Several big cars awaited the Air Force brass. Then there was Lt. Joe Farris. In a bit, a civilian came by and hauled me off in a 2-ton truck!”
Finding humor helped Joe survive. Within days, he was leading a platoon up a hill in battle. Not just any hill — Pork Chop Hill. It was one of the longest battles of the Korean War. “A military historian wrote about it, and there is a chapter about our fight to the top,” Joe says.
He was injured in combat, by a gunshot and shrapnel from a grenade. He later received a Purple Heart. “Fortunately, the shrapnel was from a Chinese grenade,” he says. “They weren’t nearly as good.”
Survive the war
Joe experienced one of his men being shot and falling into his arms, dead. He could have gone to Japan to have the shrapnel removed, but he stayed in Korea. He still carries shrapnel in his right arm and around his hips.
“There was a soldier from East St. Louis who followed me wherever I went,” Joe recalls. “If I was headed toward battle, he would be my point man. One day we were relaxing, and I noticed him and some men smoking cigars. ‘Sir, would you like one?’ he asked. I said I would.
“ ‘Why, it’s even my brand,’ I said when he gave me one. Without hesitation, he said, ‘It ought to be, sir, I took them from your box!’ ”
Joe still vividly remembers when truce came on July 27, 1953, at 2200 hours. “It got really quiet,” he says. “We hadn’t experienced silence in a long time.”
You don’t have to wait until Veterans Day. Thank a veteran today. If you live near Vincennes, you could start with former Army officer Joe Farris.