The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

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By Steve Erdman
District 47 Senator 

Straight Talk From Steve - John Stark


245 years ago our founding fathers declared their freedom from Great Britain and began a war for independence against the world’s number one superpower.

In the end, they earned their freedom. But, what about us? Will Americans continue to be free? America is a free country today, and our children continue to inherit that freedom, but American freedom from British tyranny came with a very expensive price tag.

That freedom will someday be lost unless we raise up future generations who understand the true meaning of American freedom, who value it, and who are willing to pay the ultimate price to secure it.

When Patrick Henry delivered his famous “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech at St. John’s Chapel in Virginia on March 23, 1775, he codified into American history one of our most sacred American values. Liberty is something which must be fought for and won. As Albert Einstein said, “Freedom, in any case, is only possible by constantly struggling for it.” He was right.

Because we live in days when educators are using Critical Race Theory and revisionist history to challenge our understanding of American history and to rewrite the heritage left to us by our founding fathers, many of the traditional values passed down to future generations by our founding fathers are now getting lost in the political debate and the good old stories from our past are being cancelled or removed from our children’s textbooks.

Therefore, today I would like to remind you about an old story about how that principle of freedom became a core American value in the life of one unforgettable American patriot. The name of that great American patriot was John Stark.

Following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, John Stark mustered together a loose band of minutemen and organized them into what became the 1st New Hampshire Regiment. Stark took the rank of Colonel and led his men down to Boston, where the first test of these newfound patriots was to engage the British at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

John Stark had to whip his men into shape fast. His loose band of minutemen were undisciplined and unenthusiastic about getting shot at. Fortunately for Stark, he had officers serving beneath him, who were valiant fighting men. One such officer was William Scott.

William Scott was a lieutenant serving under Col. Stark at the Battle of Bunker Hill. During the battle his knee was blown out by shrapnel from a British canon. Instead of fleeing, he stayed with his troops and prepared bullets.

As the Red Coats encroached upon him, he was shot four times in the back, collapsed, and was captured. Scott eventually healed from his wounds, escaped from prison, and rejoined the army. Officers such as William Scott helped Stark raise the standard of commitment and valor in the 1st New Hampshire Regiment.

John Stark understood for himself that the cause of freedom demanded his total commitment. So, at the Battle of Bennington, he strategically deployed his troops and then declared, “We’ll beat them before night or Molly Stark’s a widow.”

In 1809 a group of veterans gathered to commemorate the Battle of Bennington, but John Stark was 81 years-old and unable to make the journey. Instead, he sent a letter which ended with these words, “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” The expression “Live free or die” would later be adopted as the motto for the State of New Hampshire.

I fear for our country should we ever lose our grip on the fight for freedom. “Live free or die” is the standard we live by as Americans. The freedoms we enjoy today were purchased by the blood of patriots.

My hope and prayer is that future generations of Americans will never have to be made ready, like John Stark’s minutemen, to pay that ultimate price for freedom ever again.


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