Take a knee - it's heroic
By Stephen Springer - Guest Commentary
Why is kneeling during the national anthem disrespectful to me as a veteran?
Simply put, it isn't.
Like every person I served with, I swore an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Some Americans would describe swearing this oath as one of the highest forms of patriotism.
People fawned over us when we were in uniform, thanking us and shaking our hands because they perceived us as heroes defending the ideals the Constitution affords them.
The preamble of our Constitution states that the objective of this country is to provide its citizens with justice, domestic tranquility, defense, welfare and liberty.
Our flag serves as a representation of these ideals and furthermore, as a representation of American citizens.
Our service members fight under this flag, first responders wear it on their sleeves and football players have it emblazoned on the back of their helmets.
When wearing the flag, that person becomes an ambassador of our country and their actions become a part of what represents us as a group of human beings.
When players kneel during the anthem, when people fly them from their vehicles, when police shoot unarmed citizens for better or worse, these all become a part of our identity as Americans.
In 2016, we watched videos of unarmed Americans killed by police over and over again.
We tracked shooting statistics that showed blacks are killed at a higher rate than whites even though black Americans make up a fraction of the population whites do.
In the same year, Colin Kaepernick sat for three games during the anthem before contacting a retired Army Green Beret to figure out a way to protest without disrespecting our military.
That was when Kaepernick started to kneel instead of sit.
Something is wrong in our country when the general population feels more disrespected by a football player kneeling than when officers aren't held accountable for ending a human's life for no other reason than "I felt threatened."
When I learned about our country's history as a child, I learned that great Americans heroes had sacrificed their way of life and what they valued in order to unselfishly do what was right.
While it is too early to refer to Kaepernick as a civil rights hero in the same league as Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., he demonstrated the same principles as I swore to uphold when joining the military.
If I can be regarded as a patriot for wanting to protect and foster a more perfect union with liberty and justice for all, then Kaepernick is just as much a patriot as me or anyone I served with.
Stephen Springer is opinion editor of the Thunderword and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Africa.
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