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Mila Koumpilova, Published August 30 2009

Man on protest walk from North Dakota to Washington

Beach native Ross Ueckert hopes that by the time he makes it on foot from North Dakota to Washington, D.C., 10 million supporters will greet him at the Lincoln Memorial.

Meanwhile, three weeks into his 1,700-mile trek, the Army veteran inspired a crowd of about 100 gathered in opposition to a Fargo pro-health care reform rally Saturday.

Ueckert, 54, is walking from Medora to the country’s capital to protest what he sees as entrenched government corruption and the power of special interests to shape policy.

“Over the past 30 years, I’ve seen very little change and, in fact, things have gotten much worse,” said Ueckert, a staunch independent who points out he was as frustrated with the Bush administration as he is with the current one.

Ueckert, a woodcarver who is married with two teenage children, has been walking along Interstate 94 wearing a “Meet me in DC” T-shirt and waving the American flag. He hopes to quit smoking and get in better shape along the trip, documented in YouTube clips he posts frequently. His goal after returning from Washington is to get off Social Security.

Ueckert said he gladly accepted an invite to the counter-rally from radio host Scott Hennen, who’s featured him on his conservative show. Ueckert is concerned about the cost of reform. His motto is, “The less government, the better.”

“When the government interferes,” he said, “prices start going up, and you end up with a lot of corruption.”

In an interview, Hennen called Ueckert “a one-man tea party,” referring to this spring and summer’s protests of the Obama administration’s policies.

But Ueckert said he also had respect for the people who showed up to support the rally as well as anyone who “stands up for what they believe in.”

Ueckert encourages anyone who wants to talk with him to call him on his cell phone at (701) 218-0137.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529