On Friday night I had an opportunity to meet Robin Eckstein, a Wisconsin native and Iraq war veteran, as well as the other veterans traveling across the country as part of Operation FREE northern bus tour. I had a great time meeting all the veterans involved with Operation FREE, and I had a great conversation with Robin about the importance of our nation’s energy independence.
As Robin and I talked about her life and her experience as a member of the armed forces, it became abundantly clear Robin had a strong commitment to service. She enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard in 1999, and in her own words, she enjoyed her experience so much that she decided to go active duty in the U.S. Army in 2000. In 2003, Robin was deployed to Iraq for 3 months, and it was during her time in Iraq that Robin began to understand the national security implications of energy independence. During her time in Iraq, Robin was a truck driver for convoys to and from Baghdad International Airport, and it was her experience hauling fuel and water that she began to realize that every trip outside the gates of Baghdad International was, in her own words, “a roll of the dice,” as the convoys faced the possibility of coming under attack from snipers and improvised explosive devices. It was out of the uncertainty of what could happen every time her convoy left the safety of Baghdad International Airport that Robin came to realize that increased energy efficiency would mean fewer trips outside the gates, increasing the safety and security of all the soldiers who put their lives on the line each time they left the safety of their base.
It was out of that realization that Robin Eckstein came to support the idea of our nation being energy independent, and that’s how she came to be a part of Operation FREE.
After Robin discharged from the armed forces, she happened to be watching CNN when she saw Jon Soltz, the Co-Founder and Chairman of VoteVets.org, talking about America’s dependence on foreign oil as a threat to our national security, and that’s when she started her involvement with VoteVets.org, and ultimately her involvement in Operation FREE. Robin decided to join Operation FREE because she saw it as a unique opportunity to effect change and citizens on the importance of the increased use of renewable energy sources to ensure America’s energy independence. During our conversation, Robin also made it clear that renewable energy isn’t just good for the environment; it’s good for our nation’s continued security.
Asked to describe her experience as a part of Operation FREE’s northern bus tour, Robin said, “it’s been good.” She noted one of the best parts of the bus tour has been the camaraderie between the veterans on the tour, a camaraderie she had missed since leaving the military. Robin also noted she likes thinking she’s a part of something that could bring about positive change, especially on an issue as important as energy independence. As our conversation drew to a close, Robin also noted the bus tour has been an emotional experience, both good and bad, because she hadn’t shared her experiences as a soldier until the tour.
Here’s a couple of photos from the meeting on Friday night: