Charles Bieger was a German immigrant who came to St. Louis sometime in the late 1850s. When the Civil War began, he enlisted into Company D, 4th Missouri Voluntary Cavalry, which carried out missions throughout the south, including excursions into Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas. In February of 1864, the company was headed toward Mississippi to meet up with General William Tecumseh Sherman.
Before it could reach its destination, the company came under heavy fire in a little town called Okolona. During the ensuing charge, Bieger’s superior officer’s horse was killed. Surrounded by enemy troops, the captain’s death was almost guaranteed. Or it was, until 20-year-old Pvt. Bieger moved through enemy fire, rescued his officer and returned them both to safety.
In 1897, Bieger received the Medal of Honor, the highest award given to a member of the military. It was the first Medal of Honor credited to a Missouri citizen, although it would not be the last. Throughout our state’s history, more than 70 veterans have earned that prestigious distinction. Hundreds have been awarded the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, and other commendations for their bravery. Countless others have served honorably in our nation’s military. We stand here today because of those men and women, who fought to preserve our nation and our way of life.
Missouri veterans have consistently answered the call of duty. They’ve fought on the battlegrounds of the Civil War. They’ve fought to end the rise of fascism in World War II, and the threat of communism in the Korean and Vietnam wars. They fought bravely in Iraq to usurp a tyrant and give freedom to a subjugated people, and they delivered justice in Afghanistan to the terrorist organizations responsible for the tragedy of 9/11. Today, they serve honorably overseas, continuing the War on Terror, fostering democracy across the world and protecting the down-trodden, the weak and the disenfranchised.
We gather each November on Veterans Day to celebrate and acknowledge all we owe our military members, those still with us today, and those who served bravely in our nation’s past. On Veterans Day we give our thanks.
It is one thing to quote the Constitution and invoke the names of our Founding Fathers; it is quite another to take up arms and risk your life in defense of those ideals. It is a testament to the human spirit that there are those among us brave enough to risk their lives for a belief, for a cause, for a country, for a home.
Words fall woefully short of expressing the gratitude we should feel towards these men and women. We must support our soldiers through action, which is why I’ve consistently advocated for measures to help our troops, from increasing funding to our state’s seven veterans homes to designating local highways in honor of our fallen warriors.
Page 2 of 2 - We can do more, though. Legislation and state programs only go so far. Our soldiers need to know the public recognize the costs paid in their name, and that those sacrifices will not be forgotten. Please take time this Veterans Day to express your gratitude to the military members in your life and in your community. Donate your time to one of the countless veteran organizations in our state. Help out at a veterans home. Take part in one of the many programs that send holiday care packages to troops abroad. Do what you can, and don’t limit your appreciation to just this one holiday. Our veterans protect us year-round. We owe them more than the gratitude of a single day.
Always feel free to contact me throughout the year with any comments, questions, or issues by calling my office at (573) 751-5713 or by visiting my website at www.senate.mo.gov/brown.
Thank you for reading this and for your participation in state government.