This last week has seen me doing a lot of soul-searching. The news has been almost non-stop, pictures of football players kneeling on the field, not showing up until after the National Anthem is played at games. It is hard to believe that we as a nation have come to this.
Like Mike, I also served with the men of the 57th AHC in Kontum during the Viet Nam war. They were some of the most honorable, courageous and caring people I have ever known. We were black, white, yellow, and red, color did not seem to make a difference at the time. We all came from different backgrounds, economic situations, and religions. We did not care what color, how much money he had or what religion the man next to us was, he was a brother, they depended on us and we depended on them. When one of us was wounded we all bled red and when they screamed in pain we all cried together. Some of us were volunteers others were drafted. Some thought that the war was a noble cause others felt it was a lost cause, not the right war at the right time for the right reason. We all had loved ones back home that supported us or thought we should not have gone. We were as diverse as any group of people ever put together. With all those differences there were always disagreements, controversies and misunderstandings. How did such a group ever manage to get along and get anything done? Simple – we were all Americans, we were held together by a common bond of brotherhood and pride, and a dedication to something bigger than ourselves. We knew we depended on each other and we knew we loved our country. For all our differences when the flag was raised in the morning we all stood a little taller, we felt a passion in our soul, we all knew that there was that “something bigger than ourselves”. When we sang the National Anthem we did it with a passion for we knew that again, it was about something larger and more important than each of us as individuals. When the flag was draped over the coffin of one of our comrades we all hung our heads together and shed a tear. For as different as we were, we were also so much alike.
As I watch the news and see what the NFL is doing, I hurt inside, a real and true pain. I see men who are so self-centered, so egotistical, so wrapped up in themselves that they have no idea what they are doing, or if they do, they do not care what it means to others. They seem to think that taking a knee or not showing up on the field, as is required under current NFL rules, that they are making a statement. They seem to think that the statement is that they, their families, their friends, their relatives or people they have never met or been associated with have somehow been oppressed or discriminated against. Have they? I think it is safe to say yes, it probably has happened, but, I truly wonder, has it “actually” happened to them. It probably did happen to their grandparents, maybe their parents, but to them, I wonder. If it did happen to their grandparents and parents but not to them does that not show that things have improved?
Was it not under the Stars and Stripes that men fought and died to give them the freedom they now enjoy? Was it not the men who sang the National Anthem and died to give them that freedom?
It seems that they are misguided and have lost sight of what those two symbols stand for. I, and so many others, took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and all that it stands for. We did what we did so that they could have the freedom of speech to do the things they are doing. But, like so many things in life, having the right to do something and actually doing it are many times two different things. Of course they “can” do it, but “should” they do it. Who are they really hurting by taking that knee or skipping the anthem? They are hurting men and women like myself and all those who have served. They do not realize that their disrespect of the flag and the anthem for which so many have given so much is a truly painful experience. Would they purposely hurt their mother and father, sister or brother, I am sure not. Yet, they seem to have no problem hurting those who insured that they have the freedoms they enjoy day in and day out.
I wonder if they ever consider the fact that when a coffin comes home with a flag draped over it that there were parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters who cry at the grief of the loss of a loved one? Do they even begin to consider that what they are doing is having an impact on the lives of those who have to live with that pain day in and day out?
Therein lies my soul searching. I, and many others did what we did so that they have the right to do what they are doing. I try to remember that I volunteered to do those things for nearly twenty five years and never asked for anything in return. I just wish they would consider what so many have done for them. Protest if you must, speak your mind, it is your right. I just wish you would pick another place and time and show some respect for those who served under that flag and sang that anthem and made it possible for you to be who you are and do what you do.
Team Cougar – 079