Confessions Of An Active Duty Service Member In Regards To The National Anthem

Last year, when Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem, I tried to explain to people how I felt about it as a former member of the military.

I tried explaining to people that I joined the armed forces with the the intent to help defend and preserve Kaepernick’s right to kneel.

Does it make me feel comfortable? No.

Would I do it? No, but that doesn’t mean I don’t support and respect those that are.

I’ve tried staying out of the discussion the past few weeks because this topic, for whatever reason, is the hill some people have decided to die on.

There is no reasoning. There is no room for discussion and discourse. You either do what they say or you don’t matter. That’s such a horrible position to take in life.

I don’t want to end up becoming a Vladimir Putin-loving Bond villain taking refuge in Russia, having the audacity to call these NFL players unpatriotic. Not that I’m singling anyone out or anything…

I would just hate to live a life completely devoid of any gray areas at all. Things are either totally this or totally that? No thanks, I like options.I’d like to think that I’m discerning and logical enough to look at all of the details of a situation and say to myself, “You know what I get it. I support and respect what you’re doing, even though I myself couldn’t do that”

Yesterday I received an email from a friend of mine who is still an Active Duty military member with their thoughts on the National Anthem. They wanted to stay anonymous since they’re still in the military, but I think it’s an important perspective for people to see.

“Confessions of an active duty service member in regards the national anthem

The debate over NFL players protesting during the national anthem has reached a fever pitch with the President’s comments, and I think it is important to get my opinion out there so people can know where SOME military members are coming from. Stick with me here.

As an active duty service member with 6 deployments under my belt, the national anthem probably means something different to me than it does most others. When I see people kneeling or sitting during the anthem, it makes me very uncomfortable. I would never in a million years be able to do it. To me, the anthem has nothing to do with an administration, or the state of the country, or any myriad of issues. To me, it’s about belief. Not a belief in the anthem, but a belief in the people I serve with and those that came before me. I start feeling a little ill just thinking about not standing and saluting. I imagine it’s the same way for players like Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, of the Pittsburgh Steelers…….BUT…….


The anthem isn’t about one thing. And the end of the day, it’s just a symbol. At the end of the day, the country and that belief is still there. If this is the route players feel they need to take, so be it. Here we are talking about it, and it’s not getting violent. They aren’t burning a flag, or rioting, or threatening to assassinate anyone. This is the way they have chosen to peacefully protest, and as one of the people trying to make sure they are able to do that, I can’t fault them for it. The anthem may mean something completely different for them. They all say they still respect service members, and I will take them at their word, because I BELIEVE in their right to protest. I doubt the players want my opinion, but if they did, I would tell them it’s okay. I would tell them that if we are next to each other during the anthem and I am standing and they are kneeling, it’s okay. They don’t need to feel like they have to stand with me, because I’m standing so they have the right to kneel.”

I really couldn’t have said it better myself.

This defense of using “the troops” as a shield to argue against players kneeling is bullshit and this email does a great job of explaining exactly WHY it is. Not every person who served, or is currently serving, feels this way of course. But I believe a large majority of active duty members and veterans feel EXACTLY this way.

We have a different perspective of the world. We have a different perspective of what the American flag and the National Anthem mean to us. However, every military member has fought, and some have died, to preserve the right of peaceful protest.
Please, for the love of god, stop using the military as a trump card in arguments. It’s disrespectful. Find a different argument.

As the great Birdman once said, “Put some respeck on my name!”


Jingoism is a terrifying mindset. That kind of extreme patriotic, nationalistic groupthink can trample over the rights of people. Rights that people in the past have given their lives, and left loved ones behind, to fight for. Rights that send our young men and women overseas to risk their lives for.

Honestly, I can’t think of anything more disrespectful to the military than forcing people to stop exercising those rights. To attempt to silence and stomp peaceful protests like this is to spit on the graves of everyone who has ever died fighting for this country.

So the next time you think about telling someone to stand up and blindly adhere to some obscure rules in regards to a flag and a song, think about what those things REALLY stand for.

Unity. Sacrifice. Liberty.


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