I am going to admit something to you!  Every time the National Anthem plays and I see the flag flying, I get emotional!  I get emotional because I have been to two wars and understand what freedom means.  I have seen more flag-draped coffins then one would want to experience in a lifetime, but I knew the honor and respect we gave to the fallen as saluted the flags and those coffins means the world to me. I shall never disrespect the National Anthem or the American Flag for I know what they truly represent.

The ultimate goal in America is freedom for all.  The American flag represents that same freedom.  We are a nation built on the principles of freedom and democracy for all.  Of course, we are not a perfect nation and all ethnicities did not experience freedom and democracy at the birth of our nation, but we must continue to go forward today and overcome the past injustices as a unified nation.  As a military veteran of 33 years, I must speak out given the growing movement of disrespect to our American flag during the playing of the National Anthem at the beginning of games.  How can this movement that is now being supported by athletes across the NFL be about social change and justice?  It is America that gives us the freedom of course to protest, march, or to take action to change a community in a positive direction.  To affect change, we need unity of all Americans across all ethnicities.  Yes, I understand that one has the right to sit during the national anthem or take a knee because of the freedom our nation provides to its citizens, but I believe it is wrong.   I am not against protesting injustices and there are many in America—I am not blind to this fact, hence my new book, The Courage to Stand: A New America that is projected to be published any week.

I believe disrespecting America or the flag is not the answer to change.  We can change America by standing up together for the injustices that still plague America.  Instead of trampling on the honor and legacy of those who have fought for our great nation, let’s stand up together against the injustices and take action.  There are specific actions we can take in protest of inequality.  For example, we can continue to peacefully march and draw attention to injustices when there are heinous crimes committed against citizens to speak out against violence and police brutality, work for legislation to change unfair practices and laws, exercise your right and vote for those who support your agenda, run for political office to become a change agent in government, start a mentoring program in your community, give funds for education and after school programs in those underprivileged neighborhoods, invest in small business that empower people to grow, provide funds and resources into dilapidated educational facilities and neighborhoods, start the rebuilding processes  to make neighborhoods across America safe again, and volunteer to teach youth how to love and respect one another regardless of ethnicity.  These are just a few of my ideas, but there are many ways we can speak to change in America without disrespecting the National Anthem or the American Flag.

Many will find my stance controversial, but disrespecting the very symbol of our nation that has given us the right to that freedom is not congruent in my opinion.  Many of all ethnicities have died for our freedom since 1776 and fought for the flag to fly with honor and for our nation to be the land of opportunity.  Kneeling or sitting during the National Anthem is missing what freedom is really about.  In fact, I will take it further to demonstrate that those who disrespect the American flag are missing a key component of what it means to respect America for most of  those extremist groups who have often espoused radical, prejudiced, and discriminatory views don’t honor the flag.   Here is one example, remember Dylann Roof, of European descent, who sat with the pastor through a one-hour Bible study and then proceeded to execute nine innocent individuals, all of African descent, whom included two other pastors and a recent college graduate. Dylann Roof was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Obviously, this young man was deluded and acted as a terrorist for his own twisted cause. This was purely and simply a hate crime where the shooter espoused “white supremacist” rhetoric, including clothing and videos that were “anti-black” and anti-American (defacing the flag and American values). But here is my point, Roof could be seen on social media as holding the Confederate flag and stepping on the American flag!  This is what ethnic hatred spews—a disrespect for America. They know that America represents acceptance of all. I submit that these extremist groups do not have the America Flag in a positive light because they realize that their ideals and the ideals of America are not congruent.

I am not supposing that those who kneel or sit during the National Anthem are extremists or terrorists who seek to destroy American values, but I am making a point that fighting for justice by disrespecting the flag is not the answer.  I challenge every person who would not support the National Anthem to rethink your actions.  The American flag will forever fly as a symbol of freed because of the greatness of America in being the land of opportunity and the home of the brave. The National Anthem and the American flag is worthy of our respect!

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