THE COST OF FREEDOM

Sheriff’s speech honors veterans’ sacrifice
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Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Shawano County Sheriff Adam Bieber speaks to the crowd at the veterans memorial outside the Shawano County Courthouse on Saturday. Bieber said he never served in the military, but he was proud of his father and grandfather for answering the call of duty.

Shawano County Sheriff Adam Bieber has not served in the United States Armed Forces.

He told a gathering at Shawano’s annual Veterans Day ceremony Saturday that it was something he regrets.

“It’s an important day, and one for me, also,” Bieber said. “My grandfather and my father both served in the United States military.”

Bieber said that he couldn’t say no when asked to speak at the local ceremony. When he thinks of Veterans Day, he thinks of all the men and women who have served, going back more than 240 years.

“I think of the Revolutionary War, which meant fighting against an oppressive government and its taxes,” Bieber said.

He noted that soldiers fighting for our independence led to the U.S. Constitution, which outlines American freedoms. Bieber rattled off several, including speech, the right to bear arms, property rights and — a mainstay in his line of work — the right to be innocent until proven guilty.

“All of these things are not guaranteed in other countries. That’s what makes America unique,” Bieber said. “Veterans can be proud of their way of life, and their decision to take a stand against evil.”

Bieber noted that many people consider American soldiers to be liberators. His grandfather served in World War II, and one of his missions freed a man from a German prison camp. That man brought his family and visited Bieber’s grandfather out of gratitude, the sheriff said.

“I’m also proud of my father, who served in Vietnam,” Bieber said as he fought back tears. “My dad never really spoke about the war, but we were always proud of his service. My brother and I would look through his memorabilia and his photos, and we’d always pretend to be like my dad.”

Bieber said it was his father who encouraged him to go to college first, and then if he wanted to serve in the military, that would be fine.

“I can understand that now, with the way the Vietnam veterans were treated when they came home,” Bieber said. “While there is great pride in being able to serve, there is also a heavy burden that only those who serve know.”

That burden includes a heavy physical toll, Bieber said. Some soldiers lost their limbs; others lost their eyesight or bear many physical scars.

Veterans also bear mental scars, Bieber said. He noted that every day across the country, an average of 22 veterans kill themselves as they deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Those who fought for our country constantly live with the war inside them,” Bieber said. “They exist in a world of chaos, but the trauma they experience isn’t who they are. The post-traumatic stress disorder invades their minds and bodies.

“That’s why Veterans Day is so special. We need to talk about these men and the sacrifices they have made for each and every one of us. That’s why we stand for our flag. That’s why we stand for our anthem.”

Veterans Day started out as Armistice Day after the armistice ending World War I was signed in 1918. The day became a federal holiday honoring this nation’s veterans in 1954, past and present.

Dennis Bohm, of AMVETS Post 10, said it was fitting that there was a light snow falling in Shawano during the ceremony, considering many soldiers spent cold winters fighting for America’s freedom. He said it never occurred to him to cancel the program because of the weather.

“Those who fought in the wars overseas — World War I, World War II and in Korea — they fought in worse snow than we have here, so we were going to do this program,” Bohm said.