The Flag Was Still There

Why as a Veteran I support those who kneel during our National Anthem

These are my views as a veteran and a black man living in America. This is not representative of the veteran community, the Armed Forces, my company or the companies I work with.

I was 17 when I decided to join the military. I received my commission as an Infantry Officer from the United States Military Academy at West Point and went on to serve two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I made decisions that cost the lives of American soldiers. I made decisions that cost the lives of other human beings. I myself have taken human life. I have no regrets about my service and would proudly do it all over again.

I joined the military because I believe in America. As a member of the military, it was not my job to take a political stance, but my job to serve. I wholeheartedly supported my elected Commander in Chief and proudly served in the war I was asked to fight. It was a privilege. As service members of the military, we all raised our right hand and swore an oath to ‘defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic”. A Constitution that protects the civil liberties our country was founded on; liberties inspired by our very Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [humans] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The complicated truth behind the Declaration of Independence is its chief architect, Thomas Jefferson, did not believe that all men were created equal. In his book Notes of The State of Virginia, he wrote how “blacks […] are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind” and went on to advocate how whites and blacks would never live together in a free society. To this day, our nation is still working towards fulfilling the declaration Jefferson inspired a promise we as a nation made to our citizens over 200 years ago that all humans are created equal.

Fast forward to the debate happening now around athletes who are kneeling during the National Anthem. As a veteran, I will forever stand and pay respect to the flag of the United States. But I also recognize and respect the need to stand up against injustice. There continues to be gross racial injustice in America and the only way for us to solve it is if we start to at least address it.

I want to start by addressing the President and those who attack these athletes by calling them names, telling them to leave the country, and who judge them for the money they make — you are failing to address the issue: Racial Injustice. To those that say football is no place for politics or that the athletes should just be grateful for the money they make, you clearly don’t understand what it means to be a minority in this country. Yes, they are disrespecting a tradition, but this is not about the military. They are speaking up for a right, who as someone that served in the military, speaking up for a right I served to protect. They are speaking up for their beliefs with the means that they have at their disposal — peaceful protest. They are not spitting on the graves of dead service members nor are they attacking the men and women who served, they are forcing a conversation that has been ignored for too long. To those who are inconvenienced and offended by the way black people are protesting, I’m not sorry. But now that we have your attention, maybe you will listen.

Dear Colin Kaepernick, as a military veteran, you do not offend me. Instead, I thank you for YOUR service. Thank you for inspiring a generation of athletes to take a stance for a better America.

If we care so much about an anthem, let’s celebrate the point it is trying to convey ‘Our flag was still there.’ Our flag was and is still there because we are the land of the free and the home of the brave. We honor the men and women who stand up to serve in uniform and fight wars of injustice in foreign lands. Let’s honor and respect those who fight for injustice on our own soil. If you cannot recognize that a fight for freedom is happening in our very country now, then maybe you are forgetting what it means to be an American. You are ignoring that ‘all humans are created equal.’ Our flag will always be there because as a nation we will have the heroes who step up to do the right thing and now is that time for all of us to come together.

Only together can we address the systematic racial discrimination, social injustice, and police brutality that has existed in our country since it was founded. We have made progress in our history, but we have so much more work to do. Our country is being torn apart by a divisive President who wants to Make America Great Again by pitting his citizens against each other and forcing us to choose sides.

I did not serve a flag, or a 200 year old hymn written by a slave holder. I served a country and the ideals for which it was founded. Freedom of Speech is what makes this country great. We are a resilient country and have been through tougher times, faced harder enemies, and endured just as incompetent leaders. But as a people we have always persevered.

What I am asking for is not to judge those who are different than us, but instead to try and understand a way where we can all work together. Regardless of party, race, religion, sexual orientation — we are all Americans. Instead of judging each other, let’s start by all coming to the table.

We honor the men and women who, when conflict calls, say “Here I am.”

We honor those who, when they see injustice on our own soil, say, “Here I am.”

We are all American

For the majority of the country who do not know a military veteran or have ever asked them what they think, I say to you: “Here I am.”

For those who don’t know what it’s like to be black in America, I say to you: “Here I am.”

For those in need of a fellow American to lock arms with and take a knee in solidarity, I say to you: “Here I am.”

God Bless America

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