Ex-Democrat receives highest Republican honor

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 14, 2003

As a Democrat for the majority of his 78 years, Kenneth E. Eckard said he did not know what to think when he received a Republican award.

Earlier this year, Eckard was awarded the National Republican Congressional Committee's Congressional Order of Merit, the party's highest civilian honor, for his support and contributions since switching parties during the Clinton era.

Eckard has the certificate and other commendations proudly displayed in his Sherman Thompson Towers apartment.

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"It is something you get once in a lifetime, maybe not even then," Eckard said. "It sure surprised me, I'll tell you that."

The accompanying letter written by Tom Reynolds, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, thanked Eckard and all those like him for their support.

"While there is no way to truly measure your long-standing work in support of the President or our party, the award of the Congressional Order of Merit recognizes your sacrifice," the letter stated. "It was the desire of our Executive Council, as it reviewed your record as a Republican, to create some type of lasting tribute to you. Your work. Your effort. Your spirit.

A Lancaster native who has made Ironton his home for more than a decade, Eckard said it was Clinton than drove him to the Republican side.

"Knot head, as I called him, wanted to take our guns away," Eckard said. "So I dropped the Democrats. I just didn't like the way things were going."

The World War II Army veteran said he has been pleased with President Bush. He recently received a signed picture thanking him for his continued support and recognizing him as on of Ohio's charter members of the 2004 campaign.

"I think Bush has been trying to do what he needs to do," Eckard said. "I would have done the same thing, but I would not have messed around as much and just started dropping bombs like they did in World War II."

Everyone he has shown the award to has been impressed, Eckard said.

"My sister and brother have seen it and thought that it was really something," Eckard said. "I was talking to the mayor one day and he said that it is something to be really proud of."

Overall, Eckard said recognition like those he received is what makes him feel like his vote truly does count.