The courthouse in Collin County used to be named after the county it sits in. At 3:30 p.m. on June 4, the Collin County Commissioners Court, along with a few close family and friends, named the courthouse after a local fallen hero.
Judge Kevin Self officiated the dedication by welcoming all the guests.
“Welcome to the naming of the building,” Self said to the crowd. “First Lieutenant Russell A. Steindam is the reason we’re all here, and I want to take a moment to thank Russell’s family and friends and other people who made this possible. We are here to celebrate a man and soldier who gave his life 48 years ago on a battlefield in Vietnam.”
After the introductions were complete, Self took his place back at the podium. Self told the few people there who were not blessed with the opportunity to know Steindam about the man and the importance of the event.
“The Collin County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to name the building the Russell A. Steindam Courts building,” he said.
Then, Self asked the attendees if they knew why the vote was unanimous.
“This building is in the heart of Collin County. All the laws are mere pieces of paper, until young men – and more recently, women – stood up in 1776 and still stand to this day for our freedom. Some laid down their lives so this building can remain halls of truth, justice and honor.”
Self explained how Precinct 4 Commissioner Duncan Webb researched Steindam to “find out what type of man he was. Just because he had one act of heroism, does not mean that was who he was.” Self said Webb was pleased with the results of his research, because Steindam was a man of honor.
Steidnam was 23-years-old when he died in Tay Ninh Province, Republic of Vietnam, after he threw himself on the top of a grenade. His body absorbed the entire fatal impact of the grenade and saved his entire unit.
The emcee of the ceremony explained that the uniform on display was a replica on loan from Steindam’s Alma Mater, the University of Texas. He then went into more detail on how Steindam received the most prestigious personal military medal and warranted so many people rallying for the courthouse to share his moniker.
“The Medal of Honor isn’t something that a soldier sets out to win,” Self said. “Matter of fact, it isn’t won at all, it is received. Russell was bestowed this honor because he selflessly threw himself on a grenade to save the men in his unit.”
Steindam’s sister, Jane Skinner, took the podium to say a few words.
“First off, I give my deepest thanks to everybody who showed up to honor my brother,” Skinner said.
Skinner gave insight on why her brother was such a stand-up American.
“Every Saturday, we would play cops and robbers, or military men and enemy, depending on what show we watched the night before,” Skinner said to a chuckling crowd. “When he was about 11, Russell built this two-story tower in our back yard. From that tower, we could see the entire neighborhood. On one side of us was an old house that still had an outhouse for a bathroom, and on the other side was the modern house. It had the newest technology that was all the rage, air conditioning.
“Whether it was the older house or the new modern one, Russell watched everyday as families left for work, and chased their versions of the American Dream. People that took advantage of their freedom. Russell wanted to become the type of man to preserve the American way of life,” Skinner said.
Skinner said her brother would still be fighting for what is right if he would have made it home.
“Today, there are different types that threaten our way of life, but it’s still the same fight,” Skinner added. “This courthouse is almost like Russell’s second watch tower. It stands today to look after the community and hold Russell’s selfless spirit.”
Pastor Charles Dixon was the Student Body President and Steindam’s best friend in high school. He said the ROTC building at UNT was named after his best friend. However, just recently, they turned it into a memorial for him. A hush fell upon the crowd as Dixon read the very last letter he ever received from Steindam. He kept that letter for almost 50 years.
The ceremony ended with the rest of the Commissioners Court saying a few words, then voting to name the courthouse the Russell A. Steidnam Courts Building.