Guest Column: Freedom Is Not Free

State Sen. Cheri Steinmetz writes, "I grew up hearing stories about my Great Uncles John, Harold and Ed who fought against Hitler and the Nazis in World War II to defend us from the scourge of communism."

CSD Staff

July 03, 20246 min read

Steinmetz 3 11 24
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

I grew up hearing stories about my Great Uncles John, Harold and Ed who fought against Hitler and the Nazis in World War II to defend us from the scourge of communism.

Uncle John and Ed told us how after fighting for days they were captured and held in concentration camps as prisoners of war. They were prisoners because they knew the value of freedom. 

Surrounded by barbed wire, their bellies empty and bodies suffering from a lack of food and warm clothing, they took matters into their own hands.

Uncle John found a way to sneak out of camp undetected, or so he thought, intending to gather food and necessities to keep his friends alive until they could be rescued.

Before he could return, he was caught by the guards, beaten and sterilized for his disobedience.  He would suffer and eventually die in America at a ripe age from heart problems caused by starvation at the hands of the Nazis.

From then on Uncle Ed was designated the escape artist.  Being heavier and speaking better German, he was able to blend in and steal vital supplies.

We always joked, they were the real Hogans Heros, but in truth it wasn’t much like the TV show. Uncle Harold kept fighting and was never captured, however, all the bones in his feet had been crushed from stepping in steel traps designed to kill him.

Though he found it hard to buy shoes, amazingly, he could still walk and work as a sign painter and even stenciled some of the Legislative photos in the Wyoming Capitol.

I am grateful for the service and sacrifice my Great Uncles made to preserve freedom.  They were part of a generation of those who answered the call to defend Liberty -- and they succeeded.

It cost them dearly and some paid with their lives. They counted the cost as being worth it.  Ronald Reagan understood “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.

We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States when men were free.”

Today, we as the people of Wyoming must take our place in history as we steward the gift of liberty. The original battle of good vs evil and life vs death is unchanging.

This ancient battle rages through the chronicles of time as the struggle for freedom begins anew with each generation. Wyoming stands at a crossroads. We know from the Declaration of Independence that “mankind is more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for the future.”

Many have become soft in times of abundance and herald the words civility and compromise as though we have the luxury of comfort and complacency even though our state and country are in dire straights.

Increasingly the word civility is being used  to marginalize and silence opposition, to stifle free speech and shame people into being silent. We are told we must compromise, to get along and reach across the aisle.

Tell me how can we compromise when we have no starting point upon which we agree? Shall we compromise on abortion and allow mothers to kill their children or at least split the baby in half?

Shall we compromise on traditional family values, faith and freedom so we become lukewarm?  Shall we compromise and let confused adolescent children change their pronouns, take puberty blockers and have sexual lobotomies or at least do two out of three? 

Shall we cede our energy industry to the federal government or at least give them half of our State because we compromise and manage CO2 as a pollutant? Shall we stop producing meat to eat bugs and lab slime or at least eat them three days a week? 

Shall we reduce the number of illegal immigrants and foreign adversaries illegally crossing the border to traffic our children, sell illicit drugs, and ruin our country or at least let half of them in?  Exactly what is it you want to compromise?

At this late hour when liberty hangs in the balance tell me---where has compromise gotten us? Will we be so easily ensnared as to choose civility and compromise over courage and character?

No, we will not!  Tell me then, with such a cloud of witnesses that carried the burden of liberty to this day, how can we falter in defense of freedom?

We must not weaken and succumb to the cry for civility or refuse to speak! We must not weaken and succumb to the cry for compromise and refuse to act! We must walk with strength because we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who packed up all they had to brave the sea and carve a nation out of the wilderness.

We are strong because we are surrounded by witnesses who marching through the freezing cold and snow with rags wrapped around their feet fought the greatest superpower of their day and won!

We will not weaken because we are the heirs of those who gave us our freedom, our country and our Constitution. We must overcome because we are surrounded by the witness of those who bled and died in defense of our nation, we owe it to future generations to do the same.

We are thankful the have the heroes who still walk among us bearing the scars of sacrifice that are the testimony of what it takes to keep men free.

On this day when we remember and celebrate victory in the battle for independence may we not be those who draw back in fear. We must determine that we will overcome whatever the cost because freedom is not free.

Cheri Steinmetz represents Goshen, Niobrara, and Weston counties.

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CSD Staff