I admit the last few days have brought a flood of emotions for me.

I have been a lifelong fan of professional football and the Green Bay Packers.

In 1963 they were the champions of the NFL, the beginning of a dynasty that would continue for years.

In 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King led a march that would change the definition of civil rights and the lives of people for generations to come. I grew up in the south, and was ten years old when Dr. King led the march to Birmingham. 

I was fifteen when he was shot down in Memphis Tennessee.

The events of the last few days bring back memories of those times.

There is tension with I game I have always loved, the desire for people to be treated equally, and the love I have for my country and the flag that represents it.

There has been no lack of passionate opinions and articles about player protests, fueled in part by comments made by our President.

But this article written by a military veteran, a woman of color, and a writer for a national news organization brings context to to the tension between the right  to protest and honoring our flag.

She writes;

My experience with the flag gives a glimpse into why the majority of Americans will never accept “taking a knee.”

While on Active Duty in the Air Force I had the privilege of serving on the Air Force Honor Guard team performing burial services.

The pallbearers would retrieve the casket from the hearse and place it on a stand where we would unfurl a brand new, crisp U.S. flag. We wore dress blues and white gloves.

As the folding commenced the only sounds were soft sobs, birds chirping and the snapping sound of our gloves making contact with the material of the flag.  With each sweeping motion the sound of mourning would increase a bit in time with the cathartic motions that signified the end of the ritual.

Sometimes the task of handing over the folded flag would fall to me, and I would cradle the triangle of cloth to my uniformed chest and walk solemnly over to the canopy where the family awaited.

On one occasion I handed the flag into the tiny hands of a child of perhaps four or five.  Another time I looked into the red-rimmed eyes of an older woman who thanked me through her tears This ceremony takes place countless times around the nation on an almost daily basis as veterans, retirees and active duty service members killed in the line of duty are laid to rest.  These people have a close connection to our flag through the service of themselves or their loved ones.

Dishonoring the flag by making it the object of protest, no matter how great the cause, is repugnant and nonsensical to these people. Kneeling, sitting any posture of protest when the flag is the focus of attention, is in my opinion and hers, disrespectful.

Because it dishonors what the flag represents to those who have given the most. While the flag can represent different things to different people, even injustice, to the families who have lost loved ones in service to our country the flag represents the final act, the exclamation point of honor for their loved ones who gave all.

And that is worth standing for.

One thought on “Respect

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