Ueckert's journey to Washington D.C. brings him through Wadena
Ross Ueckert is taking a trip to Washington, D.C. -- and he is changing every step of the way.
He is listening to cars beep their horns and 18-wheelers blow their horns.
"You hear one of these trucker's air horns out here and it sends a jolt through you," Ueckert said with a smile.
The 54-year-old North Dakota man is walking to the nation's capitol to bring attention to the troubled times the United States is facing because the people have lost control of their government and their country.
"It's a simple mission, I am standing against corruption," Ueckert said. "I am trying to get people to stand up for what we believe in. It's not about party, it's about corruption. It not about color or religion, although I am a Christian and I guess I look at what I've learned about the foundation of our country, the founding fathers and how we became a nation and it seems to me there is a lot of things that we have lost over the years and there is a lot of fighting between people, we're kind of divided right now and that is why I am walking to the Lincoln Memorial, because he fought to keep our country together."
Ueckert will not end his journey until he stands on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial -- and he might pass the flag to others there and let them carry it to other parts of the United States next year.
He started from Medora, N.D., in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park Aug. 2 and passed through Wadena at midday Monday using a busy U.S. Highway 10 as his road.
While the principles that prompted Ueckert to begin his walk are some that many have shown support for, realism has also been a big part of the trip.
He bought a pair of boots in Fargo hoping they would make his walking easier. Instead he got blisters and has switched to tennis shoes. Before setting off for Washington he smoked and he had never walked more than three blocks in his life, he said.
Ueckert had not gone a half a mile on I-79 before a state trooper informed him it was illegal to walk down the freeway. He was forced to shift his route and by Sept. 11 he was in Wadena with the Rev. Carol Carroll, who entertained the tired traveler at the Merickel Mansion for three days while he made two trips to New York Mills to see the traveling Vietnam Wall and one to St. Cloud for a tea party.
Ueckert is not alone on the trip. His sister, Myrna Miller, is accompanying Ueckert in an SUV, running interference and making sure he has what he needs to make the trip.
Ueckert is also walking for the veterans of the Armed Forces. One of the vehicles accompanying Ueckert Monday was driven by a relative of Vern Makela, a 67-year-old Wadena County man who died in January from lymphoma, contracted from exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam.
Ueckert met a woman on the highway in Kidder County, N.D., who had lost friend in Iraq. After sharing his reasons for walking to Washington with Old Glory, she gave Ueckert a bracelet that had belonged to her friend. She asked Ueckert to take the bracelet to Washington. It was an emotional moment for both of them and Ueckert believes it has given new meaning to his journey.
When will he reach D.C? Ueckert does not know. It is 1,261 miles between Wadena and Washington and there are a lot of people and stories in between. He is on the redefining marathon of his life, not in a race, and he is meeting a lot people.
"They see the separation that is going on in our country and they don't know what to do about it," Ueckert said. "People in our country have never seen the true power of the people and it's time."