Rob Ecklund is a DFL representative of MN House District 3A. He lives in International Falls and he talked with News and Public Affairs Director Heidi Holtan about being a veteran.
Heidi: So we've talked with you on our Vote 2020 project for your reelection campaign. We have talked with you about specific issues and bills at the legislature, but today I want to talk to you a little bit more personally. You're a veteran, first of all, tell us about your service.
Rep. Ecklund: I served in the United States Marine Corps from 1976 to 1979. I was stationed at CampPendleton, California, Okinawa, Japan, and Cherry Point, North Carolina. During that time, I was a radio operator, so I was tasked with several different units. And then at the end, I was the last nine months I was in a training battalion.
Heidi: I wanted to give you an opportunity today to, to respond to some things we've been hearing in the media from president Trump and the recent article in The Atlantic that quotes the president's disparaging remarks and actions when it comes to veterans, what did that mean to you personally?
Rep. Ecklund: Well, I gotta tell you: I went in as a volunteer (my service was after the draft) and it been entirely volunteer since then. And if even a hint of these comments by the president are true, I think it should immediately disqualify him as Commanderommander in Chief. Young men and women volunteer for the armed forces. They go where our leaders send them and to disparage them like that is just uncalled for.
Heidi: And beyond that, does it concern you in terms of the the rest of the world?
Rep. Ecklund: Absolutely. We should hold our troops, active and veterans, in the highest esteem. And I think that just sends a black eye to the rest of the world that we, that, that the Commander in Chief thinks so little of them, I'm not a loser, I'm not a sucker. I prooudly served my country and his comments if they are true, bother me greatly.
Heidi: Have you heard from other veterans in Northern Minnesota about this issue?
Rep. Ecklund: Yeah, I've talked to some that are active in the VFW and American Legion. And they're as frustrated as I am about these kinds of comments.
Heidi: So do you think democratic presidential candidate, Vice President Biden will serve veterans better?
Rep. Ecklund: Absolutely. I don't ever, thankfully, have to commit troops to war in my position, but when, when our government sends troops to war, we need to take care of them when they come back. And I truly believe in Democrats have better plans for taking care of our veterans in need. When we come back versus what the Republican policies are.
Heidi: In your role in the Minnesota Legislature, when it comes to veterans issues, are they partisan?
Rep. Ecklund: It's pretty much nonpartisan for the most part. For me now, as chair of the Veterans Finance Committee, we have a limited budget that we can use for our department of veterans affairs and our, and our army national guard. And so that part of it, the spending doesn't usually even get questioned because they come through and ask for the money they want. But on some of the other projects, it has gotten partisan. I have a bill that I'm trying to get passed called a Restorative Justice Act. And the last couple of committee hearings have been rather disappointing - but I also realize when you're in the minority, you got to gum things up. So I understand how politics work. So I don't get frustrated I just get things done. So I'm not trying to get that bill passed before the year is out.
Heidi: I know you can't know this exactly. But do you think the comments from President Trump about veterans, do you think that's going to affect people's votes for president in Northern Minnesota?
Rep. Ecklund: Yeah. When it first came on, I thought it would, but this man has had so many of his outrageous comments just slide right off his back. I don't know whether people even remember to tell you the truth. So I think we need to keep it front and center and these kind of interviews do help do that, but it has amazed me since he's been in office. So I'm not surprised that it's not getting headlines.
Heidi: That's DFL Representative Rob Ecklund. He is from International Falls.