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I will always stand

For Then National AntheNational Anthem

There has been quite an uproar recently about football players who have chosen to kneel or link arms during the playing of the National Anthem as a sign of protest.

Many feel that it is disrespectful to our service members who are currently fighting for our country.  Especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in our military.

As a disabled veteran; I disagree.

Here’s why: I enlisted in the Navy as soon as I turned 18 years old.  It was a complete surprise to my family, but it was something I felt I needed to do.  To this day I consider it the single best thing I ever did for myself.

Bootcamp was 12 weeks of intense physical and mental training.  There were times I wondered if I had made the right decision, but I persisted, because for me the path was forward not backwards.

The day we were to graduate from boot camp my entire company was filled with excitement and pride.  The tension was palpable as we prepared for one last task. To Pass-in-Review.

This is a formal Military Ceremony and an important rite of passage.  It is to honor the hard work and perseverance of the recruits and formally welcome them into the Navy.  This is the last march, where all companies graduating would pass before the Fleet Commander for our final review.

We lined up.  Our uniforms ironed, our shoes spit shined, our hats placed at the proper two fingers above the eye.  We were ready.  We marched as one single unit and as we passed the Commanders’ platform our Company Commander yelled “Eyes Right” and in unison our heads snapped to the right where we could see the Commander as he saluted us.

That day when our National Anthem played I was swollen with pride.  Pride for finishing such an arduous 12 weeks, pride in our company that we had come together as one, and pride in our country.  I felt incredibly honored to be able to serve and defend our country.

It was a defining moment in my life as I stood at attention with tears in my eyes.

For many years afterward I was often irritated when the National Anthem was played at sporting events and I stood, with my hand over my heart, as others sat chatting and laughing thru the entire song.  I was often astonished at how many didn’t even remove their hats.

Or It wasn’t always that way, however.

Whenever a prominent person passed, there was a mass shooting or other tragic event such as 9/11 everyone would stand.  In hushed silence with respect, hats removed, some with their hands over their hearts, and even a tear or two could be seen.

Everyone stood, united, against a common enemy.

It didn’t last long, as time passed and memories faded once again more and more could be seen sitting, chatting and waiting for the game to begin during the National Anthem.

Over the years, I have come to terms with why the National Anthem means so much to me, and why it doesn’t to others.  I used to look at it as a lack of respect for our country, for our flag

But I was wrong.

When I graduated from bootcamp I swore an oath to support and defend our Constitution.  Not when it was convenient. Not when I agreed with it.  Always.

In 1787 when our founding fathers wrote that Constitution, in Article 1 they wrote; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”

Those football players, or anyone else, have a right to kneel or link arms during the National Anthem.  Just as those many spectators that I have observed over the years had the right to sit and talk thru it.

That is what makes our Country what it is – FREE.

I don’t have to agree with what or how those players, owners or spectators choose to act during the National Anthem.

I only have to respect and protect their right to do so.

But I will always stand.

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