Robin Eckstein is being honored as a Veteran Advancing Clean Energy and Climate Security Champion of Change.
In 2003 I deployed with the 1st Armored Division, 123rd Main Support Battalion to Baghdad, Iraq as a truck driver. In Iraq, I drove supply missions in and around the Baghdad area. During that time there was no opportunity to reflect on the daily missions to deliver fuel to forward operating bases that left our convoys vulnerable to constant attacks. These forward operating bases were going through so much fuel that the convoys had to leave the safer confines of the main bases and put American lives at risk so that this dirty fossil fuel could be used up almost as fast as it was delivered. I realized there had to be a better way, but during war you don’t have time to worry about the “what ifs.”
After returning home I decided to continue my service to the country by striving to make a difference in clean energy. In 2007 I began working on veterans issues with VoteVets.org. Then in 2009, the Truman National Security Project started a campaign called Operation Free, a coalition of veterans and national security agencies campaigning for comprehensive clean energy reform. This is where I found a true place I could make a difference and ease the pain of losing my chance to serve directly after being medically discharged from my combat disability.
I boarded a bus with a group of fellow veterans from around the nation and we drove across the country speaking at hundreds of different venues, each time discovering that when a group of veterans discussed clean energy and climate change, it was no longer a partisan issue, but one that everyone in America could be concerned about. Whether it was a meeting at the Minot, ND, Chamber of Commerce or a VFW hall in Berkeley, MI, people could see the connections.
Our message was amplified by the Pentagon’s move to take climate change seriously as a threat multiplier. The Department of Defense is taking the lead to help reduce that impact, because every solar generator that replaces a fuel-using one saves lives in a war by not having me or my fellow truck drivers dodging bullets to transport that fuel to forward operating bases.
Bringing a no-nonsense message to the American people from honest war veterans proved that minds and attitudes could be changed. There has been a lot of forward movement on climate change and clean energy in the country, and there is more good work being done today. I know the changes the military is making now will mean fewer convoys being attacked because of the old fuel-guzzling ways of yesteryear. Not only did my fellow veterans and I make a difference by bringing the connection and the truth to Americans across the nation, but I also helped myself by continuing my service to my country and giving myself a reason to not let my disability win. I am honored to be a Champion of Change and thankful to all my fellow veterans that also spread the message on that big blue bus and the many others who helped along the way.
Robin Eckstein is a veteran and a Truman Defense Council member living in Appleton, WI.