Helping others has always been a part of Gene Peery’s DNA, whether he was flying a helicopter in Vietnam, retraining vets for new careers, or guiding at-risk youth toward a brighter tomorrow. With that kind of life resume, we were eager to chat with Gene about his experiences and see the Century Farm Equestrian Center in action. We were not disappointed.
Gene Perry grew up in Scio, Oregon on his family-owned 80-acre farm. While Gene knew he wanted to someday live on the farm, he wanted to do something else early in his life. He wanted to serve his country and do some good outside his hometown. That’s when he shipped off to Vietnam to fly Huey helicopters.
“I always wanted to fly in combat,” Gene said with a wisp of history in his eyes. “At 12, I started buying flying lessons at the Albany airport. I would cut and sell firewood to pay for those lessons. That opened the door.”
When Gene got to Vietnam, he volunteered for as many piloting missions as they’d let him take.
“After being shot down and shot up, I wasn’t so keen during my last six months there. I continued on though.”
On his last flight in Vietnam and just one day before his official last day in the country, his chopper sustained so much damage that it was barely flyable, let alone landable. But Gene brought it home safely. A commanding officer was so impressed he offered Gene the chance to leave one day early aboard a plane headed for the U.S.
“He said I had five minutes to pack my stuff and get on board if I wanted out of Vietnam,” Gene added. “I had four minutes to spare as I sat on that plane waiting for takeoff.”
In Vietnam, Gene earned a Purple Heart, Silver Star, and other accommodations worthy of his life-saving heroic deeds. Ten years later, Gene was impacting lives again, this time as an instructor at a flight school in Texas.
“I flew internationally after Vietnam. I worked all over the world,” Gene said. “After ten years on the job, I started recruiting and training Vietnam vets who flew in the war.”
Over the following years, Gene trained 450 pilots. Many of them had not flown since Vietnam. One thing they all had in common was a shared history and similar struggles after returning home.
“When they weren’t training, these guys would talk to one another,” Gene remembered. “They would begin to open up about coming home and being yelled at by Americans.”
Gene had given those heroes a safe place to share and heal.
After successfully filling the job market with qualified pilots, Gene was ready to return to Scio, Oregon, with his wife and young family.
“I wanted to come home, but I couldn’t figure out what to do on the farm to make a living,” Gene added. “I built a barn and decided to see what I could rustle up. That’s when the nearby boarding school came with a proposal.”
Some of the folks in charge of what is now called Santiam Crossing School asked Gene if he would host at-risk youth on his farm to do work and ride horses.
“It made a difference for them and for us,” Gene remembered. “We found a winning combination.”
Over the years, the fresh air at Gene’s Century Farm Equestrian Center along with consistent doses of equine therapy have helped countless at-risk young people start a new lease on life.
It’s been good for thousands of nearby locals too, including home-school kids, their parents, and anyone else eager to get out, ride a horse, and marvel at the farm’s woodlands, fields, streams, and wildlife that have been in the family since 1870.
A few years back, the Linn County Veterans Commemoration Association honored Gene with the Distinguished Veteran Award. But it’s still the farm and the kids that make Gene the proudest.
Century Farm Equestrian Center offers riding lessons and trail rides for company picnics, school field trips, team-building excursions, birthday parties, home-school curriculum, and so much more. You’ll find prices and availability at the farm’s Facebook page here.
When asked why he and his staff shop at Coastal, Gene was quick to the point.
“We started shopping with Coastal when we started the company. You’ll find all the farm supplies you need at Coastal. It’s a one-stop shop for a farm or ranch. When you’re always short on time, that’s a huge benefit.”
We’re All Thankful for Folks Like Gene
It’s farmers, ranchers, and hard-working Americans like Gene who keep this country going strong day in and day out. Whether you’re running a farm, working a ranch, or need boots, pants, and shirts that can withstand days in the elements, you’ll find everything you need at your Northwest owned and operated Coastal.