Veteran, and Chairman of the Board, Michael Guttau inspires through his story

Published: Mar 1, 2018 11:54:16 AM
Topics: Community, About Us

Chairman of the Board, Michael (Mick) Guttau can often be found delivering speeches about the importance of remembering our Veterans through sharing his stories and experiences. Many of Mick's life-long core principals and phrases have inspired and shaped who TS Bank is today. We thought we would share one of Mick's latest speeches, as we found it very powerful.


Today we are going to talk about the concept of the team and some who gave all for the team and we will talk about Words of Honor. 

There are a lot of meanings for the word ‘honor.’

One is an "evidence or symbol of distinction.” 

Another meaning of honor is “a good name or public esteem,” all evidence of your dedication to excellence. And dedication to the team and putting the team before self.

This morning, we will talk more about the concept of the team and some who gave all for the team, and we will talk more about “Honor’.

First, what is a veteran?

A veteran is one who serves or has served in the armed forces. I will be talking a lot about combat today. And, combat is war. But those who weren’t in combat are still veterans. Most veterans have the potential of being in combat. That’s what the armed services do in times of conflict.

Another definition I read of a veteran is: A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life wrote a blank check Made payable to 'The United States of America ' for an amount of 'up to and including my life.' That is Honor.

Why do we celebrate Veterans Day?

We veterans celebrate it for “The Guys” we remember, I’ll tell you more about them later.

But, you hear about Veterans like Congressman Chuck Hagel, Senators John McCain, and Sen Bob Kerry. However, most veterans don’t go on to become congressman or senators. Most veterans come back home and live among you. They just become a part of their community. But they are different because they are veterans, a difference you may not see.

The difference is that the life they live is never the same as it would have been had they not served. Combat changes life forever.

What is it about combat that makes life never the same again?

For twice as long as the oldest of you students have been living, I have not lived one day of my life without thinking about combat. 1970-71: That is 47 years, that is over 17,000 days, every one of those days thinking about combat.

It is in the small things:

certain smells . . .

diesel fuel, as I cross the street and a diesel tractor or truck goes by - that reminds me of deuce-and-a-half trucks or armored tanks and APC’s (armored personnel carriers).

jet fuel at airports reminds me of fighters and helicopters.

the burning of gunpowder, when you play with fireworks reminds me of combat.

that pungent smell of the rotting that takes place in jungles . . . sometimes in the summer in Iowa when it is humid and hot you can smell a little bit of the jungle.

And, the sounds . . .

a helicopter flying over

that same firecracker whose sound first alarms me before I smell it.

a loud explosion that reminds us of artillery or mortar shells raining down on where we lived.

another sound - audio tape - sent to me of my local high school team playing in the state tournament in 1971. Even there, 10,000 miles away I wanted to hear about my home-town team!

Even the tastes . . .

when I have canned peaches I still recall the days I would save either my peaches or pound cake which both came in cans of ‘C’ rations - I’d save them until I had both so I could sit down and eat them together. Sometimes it would be weeks. But I’d carry that can with me just in case. And when I found or traded so I had both then I would wait. I would make sure it was a slow day and I wouldn’t be scrambled for a mission and I would make a stove out of a ‘C’ ration can and fill it with soil then crawl under my helicopter and fill that little stove with jet fuel from the fuel drain, light it and make myself a hot cup of coffee.

Hot coffee, peaches and pound cake - life was good -that was combat.

Besides the smells and the sounds there is also the sights . . . . . . .

My wife, Judy, seeing a Cobra helicopter in an air show several years ago, excused herself from the flight line and went and shed a few tears. The memories for her were too real also . . . . . . wives are veterans too.

For me, when I am flying my plane, the certain flicker of the sun off of water sends me back to certain scenes of flying over the rice paddies of South Vietnam.

So, each day of my life brings back these memories. They’re not necessarily bad - they are just memories that are there every day of my life.

The change in life that combat brings is the difference for veterans in those days that you and I would both call mountain top days or mountain top experiences.

One of the early ones I remember came when I was in the delivery room seeing our daughter Heidi born. Seeing Heidi, wet my eyes for the first time in my life and I understood how my mother and father loved me. Now, I finally could understand why my father, who only once before, I saw have a tear in his eye, now stood in front of his home at the end of the sidewalk crying as Judy and I were leaving for her to take me to Eppley Airfield, in Omaha, to leave for Vietnam. They feared losing a child - yes, they still saw me as their little boy. 

From that, a lesson for you to remember is that you don’t know now how much mom and dad love you. Sometimes when you are frustrated with your parents parenting, just remember they are looking at your life entirely different than you are. You are theirs. They have invested all of these years in you, to them you are fragile.

To you, you are invincible . . .
To them you are mortal.
To you, you are immortal . . .
To you it is your life.
To them it is a beautiful young man or woman whom they have loved and nurtured for longer than you even remember. If you really want to surprise your parents, tonight when you get home tell your mom or dad or grandpa and grandma, ‘thanks for loving me’ and if you feel really affectionate give them a hug too.

That is what I then recalled in my father’s tears as I saw my daughter, Heidi born.

At her birth, I also was hit by the reality that ‘the guys’ would never experience this. John, whose Cobra disappeared into the cloudy evening sky over North Vietnam, and Bruce, who was vaporized by a rocket hitting his helicopter, shortly after he extended to stay in Vietnam an extra six months only so he could build up his flight hours to get on with the airlines.

Grebby, an armor piercing round went through his front seat pilot, his instrument panel, his chicken plate, his heart and his transmission as he flew his Cobra low over the enemy trying to protect civilians. He would have been back home and in his own wedding just 12 days later. The list goes on and on. None of ‘the guys’ would ever see the miracle of the birth of their own children.

For me each mountain top experience in life, and I’ve been blessed by many, and today sharing with you is one of those mountain top experiences . . . Each mountain top experience is affected by the memory that none of ‘the guys’ get to do this.

That may sound like a downer to you but let me assure you it is not!! I can picture each of them up here telling you what you need to hear.

John would be shy - not make eye contact with you very much, but share with you from his big heart.

Bruce would be flamboyant and cocky, the arrogant Air Cavalry pilot that we all were, he would still be.

Grebby, would look you right in the eyes and speak softly. His warmth and friendship could never be hidden by the toughness we all hid behind. The toughness that we faked because we were in the business of killing people. And you have to be tough for that - we thought.

But, if I am so tough, why am I so moved by the memory of ‘these guys’. Why has each mountain top experience, the births of Heidi and Josh, their honors, their victories on this basketball floor, their graduations from Treynor and college, their weddings, our grandchildren, Judy’s and my wedding anniversaries and on and on have each involved “The Guys”?

You may be thinking in your mind, “that poor Mick,” haunted by these memories for life.

But let me assure you, you don’t need to feel sorry for me. The memories are a BLESSING!! 

Rather than a haunting, yes, it is a BLESSING.

My memory of them makes each day a blessing, a day worth living, not because I live it for them, but because I’ve been humbled with knowing the value of life through their deaths. The guys won’t ever be called ‘Daddy’. They’ll never stand up in the bleachers and yell when their child sinks the big one. They’ll never have a job to go to. They’ll never get to come home to their home town to live. They’ll never get to go to their alma mater and tell people like you about ‘the guys’ and what they were like.

You can call it luck, I call it providence - I get to do all of those things. And in each one, I remember ‘THE GUYS’.

You notice I always talk about “the guys”. In ‘my war’ it was always just guys. Admittedly there were female nurses, but we felt lucky that we never got to see them. Your war, God forbid you are ever in one, will also have ‘the gals’

I want to share with you a portion of a speech delivered by BG Mark Welsh, commandant of cadets who was addressing the Air Force Academy student body about his memories of combat in Desert Storm:

“The other thing I heard was when the ground war actually started and an F-16 pilot by the name of Billy Andrews, was shot down in the middle of the retreating Republican Guard, and I mean right in the middle of them. A call went out from AWACS, "is there anybody around who had the ordinance and the fuel who could get to where he was located in case we needed him for Search & Rescue." And a lot of people responded but the first one that I really paid attention to was the voice of an army Chinook helicopter pilot, who came on the radio and said, "look, I've got this much gas, here's my location, I can be there in that many minutes, give me his coordinates ... I can pick him up."

Now everybody knew where the Republican Guard was and everybody knew he was right in the middle of them. And you gotta remember a Chinook is about the size of a double-decker London bus with props on it. And it doesn't have guns on it. And I guarantee you I would follow her into combat. And I'll never forget her voice.”

So you see young ladies this message is for you too.

That war, Desert Storm, seems like yesterday to me, but most of you don’t even remember it.

My war was thirty-seven years ago.

I don’t know when your war will be. . .  I pray never.

I want to say three last things:

First, about our country and why we have fought wars. I honestly believe that communism or terrorism, or any rule that strips man of freedom, is a cancer that can infest our world and I would fight it still today. It is a cancer that steals the freedoms of people just like you and me. That is why I was there. Because a group of people I didn’t even know didn’t have the same freedoms I enjoyed. The greatest freedom torn from their lives was their right to hold and exhibit their beliefs in God.

Freedom is worth fighting for, even for others, especially when the freedom is to honor our God who loves you and me.

Secondly, I want to remind you how special those freedoms are that are held by this great country that we live in.

We have fought in many foreign lands and we’ve been accused of hunger for power or oil or whatever excuse our critics can throw at us. We have fought for other people’s freedoms.

But, I want you to never forget that of all the places we have fought in this world, we have never asked for or taken one square inch of foreign soil.

. . . . . . . . . Oh, there is one exception and that is the land for the cemeteries where we buried our dead soldiers.

Lastly, why are ‘the guys’ so darn special to me? It all boils down to a T shirt a friend bought me at the Vietnam Wall in Washington DC. He bought that T-shirt because its simple message said it all:

“If you need me I will come.” Those were our Words of Honor.

That is why a soldier will lay his (or her) life on the line for a fellow soldier. There was that unspoken pledge to each other: “If you need me I will come.” All but one of my medals for valor was for doing something to save a life. I, just like all the others, would do what needed to be done and not worry about danger, only assess it to accomplish the rescue because I knew they would do the same for me. I saw that attempted a lot. Only many rescuers didn’t survive. But we were willing to sacrifice the ultimate because we knew if the tables were turned, we could count on that pledge. “IF YOU NEED ME I WILL COME”

Incidentally, that may make me sound brave and courageous. But I was just like you, from a small town, a small school.

There may be one of you sitting here today, who will be called to do the same, and you will perform with valor - because of the pledge “if you need me I will come”. Because of those Words of Honor you will do the same.

But because you may think me brave or courageous, you need to know the rest of the story. When it was night. . . . . I would bury my face in my blanket or pillow . . . . I would cry from fear or for the loss of a friend if we didn’t get him out . . . or for the fact that I thought I would never hold my beloved wife, Judy, in my arms again. . . . . . You will do the same.

You have listened intently. I hope you have come to know veterans better as I told you about some of ‘THE GUYS.’ I hope when you see these veterans at an event like this you know they aren’t here because they loved war or glorify war. I hope you will understand no one hates war more than a veteran. So the next time you say the pledge of allegiance at school or hear the nation anthem, think of the guys and gals.

You need to understand as G. K. Chesterson once said: “Those who fight don’t fight because they hate those who are before them; but because they love those who are behind them.

Many of you may know a veteran. He or she may be your parent or grandparent, aunt or uncle, maybe your neighbor or friend.

We as veterans just ask you to understand that today, Veterans Day, is our day . . . not just a day of celebration, but a day just like every other day that we will use for remembering.

. . ..remembering ‘The Guys’. . . 

Won’t you join us?

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Mick Guttau, Chairman of TS Banking Group, served as a Cobra Attack helicopter pilot and Air Mission Commander in the US Army Air Calvary in the Vietnam War. CPT Guttau was awarded 28 Air Medals, including an Air Medal for Valor, the Bronze Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses. After leaving the military, in 1978 at the age of 31, with the help of his family, Mick and his wife Judy used the family farm as collateral to buy Treynor State Bank, now known as TS Bank, and turn it into the community prosperity engine it is today. In recent years TS Banking Group has committed in excess of one million dollars to the TS Institute which to date has impacted over 25,000 students in learning and adapting financial literacy.

During his banking career Mick has served as Chairman of the Council of Federal Home Loan Bank and Chairman of ABA’s Community Bankers Council, in Washington, DC; Chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines; and for over four years as Iowa’s State Superintendent of Banking in which he was actively involved with the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS). He is also past Chairman of the Iowa Bankers Association. Mick accepted the challenge to improve banking in the old Soviet Union after the fall of the Iron Curtain. He served as a member of the steering committee and a speaker at the International Russian Banking Conference in Moscow. He also volunteered in Slovakia through Iowa State University and the US Agency for International Development.

He currently serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Advisory Council on Agriculture, Small Business and Labor.

A graduate of Iowa State University in Farm Operations, Guttau has served on the Iowa State University Athletics Council and as director of the Iowa State University Alumni Association. He is currently a Governor of the ISU Foundation and serves on the audit committee of the foundation.

Additionally, Guttau is Chairman of Deaf Missions, a world-wide Christian ministry for the deaf, and is a board member of the Pottawattamie County board and Iowa/Nebraska jurisdiction board of Good News Jail and Prison Ministry. In the past he served as Chairman of CHI Mercy Hospital. Mick and his wife, Judy, are active members of Living Hope Community Church. The couple have two adult children and seven grandchildren including Shianne, an adopted granddaughter who is in her 2nd year at Iowa Western Community College.

Three bank charters make up the TS Banking Group: TS Bank in southwest Iowa with $392 million in assets, The Bank of Tioga, located in North Dakota with $322 million in assets, and First National Bank and Trust Company of Clinton, IL with $140 million in assets. Also, included within the TS Banking Group is a wealth management firm, TS Prosperity Group, with $317 million in assets under management and a national agricultural lending group branded as TS Ag Finance in Ames, Iowa.

Written by Jessie Shiels