The cattle business is blessed with good people,” says Ashland, KS, cattleman Bill Broadie. Without a doubt, Broadie is among them.

As a U.S. Marine, Broadie served in Vietnam where he was wounded twice. The second wound was disabling.

“I will never forget the plane ride home,” Broadie says. “I came home to a country violently opposed to the war effort and the troops who had risked their lives.”

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the inception of the war in Iraq, Broadie was determined that his experience wouldn’t be replayed for these new warriors. So the field representative for Superior Livestock rounded up his fellow cattlemen and started the All-American Beef Battalion (AABB) in August 2007. AABB is a non-profit organization dedicated to expressing its gratitude by providing a steak dinner to every U.S. soldier.

“This is our way of saying thanks and letting them know their sacrifice and service is appreciated,” Broadie says.

The first AABB steak feed was in Olathe, KS, on April 26, 2008. It was served to members of the 731st Transportation Co., a National Guard unit just returning from duty in Iraq.

Since then, the AABB effort has only gained momentum. In just four years, the organization has grilled up and served more than 130,000 steaks to deploying and returning U.S. troops and their families in events across the country.

Why steak? Because Broadie says  there’s no better way to say “thank you.” It’s also his way of promoting the beef industry.

“AABB is great for our industry; every time we host a steak feed, there is a good chance we are sending a positive message about beef to all 50 states,” he says. “The troops share our story with their friends and families. They gush about the gesture and great-tasting steaks we serve. Every steak we serve at our feeds is USDA Choice and dry-aged for 30-40 days. You can cut them with a plastic fork and knife.”

Troops feel the love

Lori Huber, whose son Lance is stationed in Afghanistan withthe South Dakota Army National Guard’s 842nd Engineering Co., can attest to the meaning of the gesture.

“I thank Bill for the generosity and foresight that he has for our troops. Sometimes, I think our politicians have forgotten the core of our nation – our American soldiers, who sacrifice so much for our country,” she says. “As a mom, I’m counting down the days until my son is home, and Lance tells me they’re very excited about coming home to the AABB steak feed and eating all-American beef!”

Huber and her husband Kevin donated a Simmental heifer that was auctioned off in their hometown of Yankton, SD. The roll-over auction raised almost $50,000, which was donated to AABB to support the troops and promote beef.

Broadie was among those touched by the auction. “South Dakota has been a big supporter of AABB,” he says, “and I challenge other states to follow its lead.”

Although it was midnight in Afghanistan at the time of the auction, Lance joined in on the action through Skype; his wife Debra made the connection with her phone. Broadie says it’s individual stories like the Hubers’ that drive the AABB crew to continue the mission to thank a soldier, one steak at a time.

Bill Broadie – a lifelong cattle person

Broadie’s passion for the beef industry goes back to his childhood. His dad Raymond owned and operated the Ashland Sales Co. sales barn, and ran stocker cattle across the country. Broadie spent his after-school hours and summers with his dad at the auctions and in the pickup truck traveling to cattle sales ever since he was 13 years old.

Upon graduating from high school, Broadie enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. Within six months, he was in Vietnam; just five months later, he was convalescing in the hospital.

“After coming home from Vietnam, I spent a lot of time in the hospital healing. I was released in March 1968, and on July 27, I married my sweetheart, Linda (Clark),” he says.

Broadie studied business administration at Fort Hayes State and graduated in 1971. He then moved back to Ashland and started farming in a partnership with a neighbor.

“We farmed 1,000 acres of crops and ran stocker cattle on 1,000 acres of grass. My grandpa gave me $25,000 to buy a tractor and some equipment. My dad set me up with the money for the cattle, and I went on shares with him. I got two-thirds of the profit, and Dad took the rest. Two years later, we went into a full partnership together and ran stockers all across the country.”

His dad’s sale barn closed in 1972, but Broadie kept running cattle. In 1989, Broadie began working for Superior Livestock.

“The first cattle I sold with Superior were my own,” he says.

Although he’s since left the stocker business, working for Superior Livestock keeps Broadie busy at cattle sales – logging thousands of miles in his pickup truck each week – a “road warrior,” as he calls himself. His busy travel schedule makes it tough to stay home and feed cows, although he fondly recalls his days in the business.

Broadie and his late wife Linda raised two children, Barrett and Amy. Barrett and his wife Lori live in Burns, KS; they have three children – Reagan, Colt and Austin. Barrett is also a field representative for Superior Livestock. Daughter Amy (Broadie) Deudig lives in Milwaukee, WI, with her husband Jeff and two children, Luke and Grace.

Broadie’s focus on cattle sales and AABB events went on the backburner when Linda was diagnosed with cancer in June 2011; she passed away in early 2012. To honor her life, more than $30,000 was donated on her behalf by various beef industry organizations and individuals to support AABB.

“When Linda got sick, I really focused on her. She was the most important thing in my life. Now, I’m trying to get more active and involved with AABB again. If it hadn’t been for the board of directors, especially Jon Fort, AABB would have folded. He kept the ball rolling. We use all of his equipment for the feeds. We can cook for 5,000 now without any outside support because of his grill and trailer,” Broadie says.

Volunteers keep AABB thriving

The AABB board includes Broadie, Fort, Larry Bilberry, Jim Odle, Kendal Kay, Kevin Hathaway, Craig Mock, Mike Arnold and General Richardson.

“I knew AABB could get big, but I didn’t know how big; our goal is to take this thing all the way to the troops in Afghanistan,” Broadie says. “When I saw how the mainstream media was trying to treat our troops – the same way they did us when we were in Vietnam, I knew I had to do something. I called Jim Odle (co-founder of Superior Livestock) and told him I had a crazy idea. The rest is history.”

AABB is entirely volunteer; directors foot the bill for their own travel. They give their time, talent and treasure to support the troops and promote the beef industry, but the reward comes from seeing the appreciation on the troops’ faces.

Although the organization has been quietly operating without a lot of outside support, folks are starting to pay attention. AABB was recognized as the 2012 Prime Promoter by the South Dakota Beef Industry Council.

“How do you put it in words? It’s so humbling to be around these kids. Ever since 9/11, these soldiers know where they are going. You’re trying to tell them thank you, but they are thanking us right back. It’s such an honor to be around them,” Broadie says. "Would you buy a soldier a steak?" 

The long-haul effort

The favorite steak feeds of Bill Broadie, 2012 Trailblazer Award winner and founder of the All-American Beef Battalion (AABB), are those dedicated to the Wounded Warriors Project. “Because I’ve been through it, they ask me how to deal with the pain after they come home – the survivor’s guilt and post-traumatic stress. One of my goals is to organize a group of wounded Vietnam veterans to show these kids there’s a lot of life yet to live.”

Support for AABB from the beef industry continues to grow. Creekstone Farms, Tyson and U.S. Premium Beef are major sponsors of AABB; and individual ranchers have auctioned their own stock, with all proceeds going to AABB. Meanwhile, commodity groups and cattlemen’s organizations have also stepped forward to gather funds to keep AABB on its feet. Broadie hopes even more people in the beef industry will get involved.

“I’m going to keep promoting beef and keep thanking the troops, no matter what. I’m in this thing for the long haul,” he says.

Amanda Radke is Editor of BEEF Daily.