UTICA -- Faith and friendship are two simple words, but they hold great importance in the life of veteran Loyd Erks from Utica.
Erks served as a driver in the 94th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion from 1954 to 1956.
Growing up, Erks was known for being studious and a hard worker. He spent most of his time helping his father on their family farm.
Erks said, “I was thankful for being taught how to work hard at a young age. I was taught that if you work hard enough, you’ll be rewarded in the end.”
Erks attended classes from kindergarten to eighth grade at Immanuel Lutheran in Gresham -- when they had a school. With farming running in the family, it was only natural for Erks to continue the family farm after attending school.
Erks said, “During those years, you could send a letter to the school saying whether or not you want to continue going to high school. After thinking long and hard about it, I decided not to mail any card and thought it was best to help my dad out on the farm.”
After a couple of years of accumulating machinery and ground with his father, Erks felt called to go into the service. At the age 17, Erks went to the Seward County courthouse to volunteer for the draft. In November of 1954 he was drafted into the military and was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas where he went through rigorous training and inspections.
“In the military, you know what needs to be done and you get it done. You do everything they tell you to do in the right way,” he said.
Erks remembers having to sweep and mop the floors of the camp buildings. “I’d have to sweep out every speck of dirt in the cracks of the tiles. It prepared me for what was to come in Germany,” said Erks.
After eight weeks at Fort Bliss, Erks was Germany bound. He remembers 2 a.m. wake up calls to the alarming sound of whistles being blown in his ears by the commanders. “It didn’t take us long to jump out of bed, go to the site we were sent to, and dig tank trenches about three feet deep.”
Erks was also in charge of running the M32 Tank Recovery Vehicle. Erks said his faith and the friendships he made while being in the military made all the long days worth it. He and his friends would often go to a Lutheran church service every Sunday morning in Frankfurt, Germany. Attending church gave the soldiers resiliency and strength to maintain peak efficiency and nobility.
As soon as they were packing up to leave Germany in 1956, one of Erks’ friends had already set a date for a veteran reunion. The first reunion Erks attended was in 1961 at a church camp in Wisconsin. Erks and his friends have been meeting ever since then at the camp.
Erks said there was never a dull moment with his friends. His favorite moments were when they would carpool to the training sites. One time, Erks hopped in his friend’s car so fast that one of his shoes fell off. “When I got in the vehicle, I looked down and saw I was missing a shoe. I just sit back and laugh at it now.”
After serving in the military, Erks came home to Utica where he manufactured irrigation equipment for local farmers. His life consists of spending time with family, working on creative projects around the house and counting down the days until he gets to see his military family.
Erks said even though he never went into combat, he still learned a lot about work ethic and teamwork.
“Anyone can become successful if they apply themselves and work hard,” said Erks.