Protests tough to take, but it's their right

I'm an army brat, raised for most of my formative years as the son of a military officer, moving every couple of years to a new location — some exotic, some not so much — until we settled here in God's Country almost 40 years ago.

I was the youngest of the bunch so I didn't do the traveling or sacrifice the time with our father as my older siblings did, but nonetheless a lot of sacrifice comes from a military family and we were no different. Our family had to do without a father for months, years at a time as he fulfilled his commitment to the U.S. Army with a tour in South Korea and two in Vietnam.


We lived in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where at school we participated not in fire drills but air raid drills on a regular basis and woke to the sound of "Reveille" every morning from the parade grounds as they ceremoniously raised the American flag and then again brought it down at the end of the day to "Taps."

In schools we stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance every day and at ballgames we sang our National Anthem with our hands over our hearts. That's the America in which I grew up.

So it's probably pretty easy to see what side I come down on in this whole "Kaepernickgate" thing.

Our father didn't lose his life defending his country. He lived a long, relatively happy existence after leaving the army until his death a few years ago. But there are many soldiers who weren't so lucky fighting in far-off lands defending the American principles upon which this nation was built. Those same young men and women who come home not to hugs and smiles and tears of joy, but rather in a 6-foot box draped with the symbol of freedom to the world over and instead, tears of sorrow.

But as disgusting an act as many of us think it was, all of those soldiers fought for those same constitutional rights that are the birthright of every American, just so an overpaid, under-talented, backup quarterback on a storied but recently average franchise can make use of the stage on which this country has given him the opportunity to showcase his God-given talents, can take a knee in "silent" protest during an intimate part of every sporting event across the land.

I will fight for his First Amendment rights, those same that I enjoy as a writer and as an outspoken defender of those rights the same that I will defend a coach's right to bench a player for a similar behavior if he/she thinks it's affecting the team chemistry that we all work so hard to first obtain, then maintain during the course of a season. I will scratch my head in amazement as I watch another spoiled athlete drop to his/her knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and wonder where else in the world could they get this same opportunity.

I will never understand how Megan Rapinoe, one of my personal favorites on the US Women's National Soccer Team, can take a knee in protest when she now lives in a country that allows her to love who she wants to love without public persecution and scorn nor subject to "honor killings" for her love of another woman.

I can't fathom how Pete Carroll could consider having his entire team take a knee during the opening day national anthem — on the 15th anniversary no less, of the Twin Towers falling at the hands of terrorists who despise our way of life — in protest of police behavior, those same police who protect their well-being and livelihoods, putting their own lives on the line every day.

This week I got to watch both Shannon Sharpe and Ray Lewis — two African-American former pro football players, titans of the game and legends of Baltimore football — give their view of the dilemma facing the NFL with these protest moves. Both are very passionate, eloquent men who provided an interesting perspective on what the symbol means to different Americans (Sharpe) and how to better use the celebrity to further the cause and make actual change (Lewis).

Neither was supporting or condemning Kaepernick's actions but rather using their mouthpiece to give a better understanding of the situation from different perspectives.

President John F. Kennedy once said, "The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission."

To stay the greatest, most free nation in the world and an example to others that want to emulate our way of life, sometimes this includes the acts of certain individuals that make our stomachs turn.

That is the America that we now live in. God Bless us all.