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Taking a Knee

For most of my life in halls full of folks showing respect for our flag, I've frequently been the only one doing something different from everyone else.  While they all stand with their hat in their hand and their hand on their heart when our anthem is played, I keep my hat on my head and salute.  "OH look, that old geezer must be a veteran!"  Its not easy for me to stand like that.  I'm multiply disabled.  I have to lean heavily on my cane with one hand and salute with the other; its extremely painful to stand and do that for three minutes or so.  Being a disabled veteran, I have the right to stay seated.  But if I did that I'd get dirty looks.  When I stand and salute on the other hand, those who never served tend to respect the old geezer in the vets hat, saluting patriotically.

There's an old photo that's been floating around the internet for years; showing a huge crowd of folks sitting comfortably in beach chairs watching a Veterans Day parade.  Up front in the crowd is an old guy in a vets hat with a wheel chair standing and saluting the passing flags.  The punch line reads: "Why is this guy the only one standing?"  We all know the answer, he's the only one who understands what patriotism really means.  He's the only one who feels bone-deep respect for the service members and vets marching by.  For him, its not just a pretty parade with old time toe tapping band music to enjoy.  They're marching in honor of those who didn't make it back to be able to march; and that's what that old geezer is saluting.  He doesn't care if his butt is in the way of watching by someone seated.  Its his damn parade!

OK, so I'm a patriotic old vet, so what?  You might think I'd get into a snit about people who don't stand for our flag and our anthem.  You might think my blood would boil seeing someone taking a knee instead. The internet is full of posts by people being all huffy-puffy having hissy fits about it.  Some are vets.  Frankly it makes me sick to see folks who fought for freedom telling other folks what they ought to be doing.  For me, taking a knee would be more painful than standing and saluting.  Those doing that are mostly healthy young athletes.  If I took a knee, I'd need help getting back up, and my knee would hurt like hell!  Otherwise, I'd be joining those young folks taking a knee these days.

I don't think taking a knee is disrespectful.  Burning the flag is disrespectful!  In 1968 when my fellow college students, protesting the Vietnam War, burned our flag -it pushed my button so bad that I decided it was time to pay my country back for my family's freedom by quitting college and volunteering to serve.  I did that because I saw them burning MY flag.  Just because of that, I served ten years!  I left honorably as a Sergeant First Class.  Now, at 70, I can hardly walk half a block, and like I said, its painful to stand and salute.  But, I'd take a knee with those kids if I could.

Throughout history, legions of warriors have taken a knee with a fist against their heart or their sword pressed against their bowed forehead, to show respect and loyalty to their king or emperor.  Its a pretty humble and honorable thing to do.  So, today in America, those taking a knee are in my opinion showing respect for our flag while at the same time doing something different to protest inequality, to protest lives lost to the worst kind of discrimination, to protest the national disgrace and dishonor to what our flag stands for.  Considering that, its a pretty damn respectful protest!

Taking a knee, as if in prayer, is a pretty reverential protest.  Those seeing it should not be blowing boiling steam out of their ears; rather they should pause and think of all the unarmed innocent sons and fathers shot to death because of the color of their skin; and fall to their knees in tearful prayer for their souls; fall to their knees in national shame for their poor mothers and spouses and children.

As a proud patriotic veteran, it would be my right, my honor, and my duty to take a knee.

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Its your Right, your Honor, and your Duty.

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