THE FLAG

Originally Published in The Belle Banner, in Belle, Missouri, September 27th, 2017. This is another article out of the sequence in which they were published, but with the apparent decision by the NFL to ban kneeling during the National Anthem, I feel compelled to post this now.
I graduated from Belle High School in May 1961. We spent eight years down stairs in grade school. In many classes, we said the Pledge of Allegiance. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”. When we moved upstairs to high school, we were joined by others who came in from the one room country schools. That summer I pumped gas in a service station, for Arlie Roesner. There was talk of war that summer. That was the Berlin Crises. The Soviet Union sealed off East Berlin and started building the Berlin Wall. American and Russian tanks faced each other, as the wall was being constructed. President Kennedy, on national television, said; “We seek peace, but we will not surrender”. He called for tripling the draft, increasing the size of the armed services, and possibly calling up the reserves. At the end of August, I enlisted in the Army, for Airborne Infantry. As a fairly immature 18 year old, I didn’t fully understand the tear in my Dad’s eye, as he shook my hand before I left to get on the bus, in Belle. Thirty years later, when we put our son on the bus, in Rolla, for the same trip, I did fully understand.
After training I was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, my Dad’s old unit. My Platoon Sergeant, when I arrived at my company, was Staff Sergeant William Maud Bryant. Sergeant Bryant was a very smart, articulate man. After a few months, he went to Special Forces, and as a Green Beret was killed in action in Vietnam, and subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor. The Squad Leader of our Weapons Squad, in which I was a Machinegunner, was Staff Sergeant Tom Walker. The other Machinegunner, in the squad was named Jordan. Staff Sergeant Tom Walker taught us the machinegun so well that we won Division Machinegun Competition in the spring of 1963. Tom Walker was also killed in action in Vietnam. All three were black men, good men. My black friends, in North Carolina, first introduced me to “Splo”. Its’ popular name is “white lightning”, but whatever it’s called you never forget it.
I saw combat in Dominican Republic and in Vietnam. The Army was fully integrated, there was no “race problem” in combat units, we were all green and we all bled red. We depended on each other, and we became close to each other. What else I saw in different countries around the world were the some of the greatest ambassadors for the United States of America. Soldiers would stand down from a firefight and share their rations with hungry kids, they would pick up old women and kids and carry them out of the line of fire. Young children would literally try to sell cokes while under fire. I saw that people are pretty much the same all over the world. They want to protect and provide for their family, and they want to see their children grow up and be happy. I saw the United States as the worlds’ protector of individual freedom and liberty. I became acquainted with many Vietnamese. I knew Catholics whose families had been fighting the Communists for years, but the United States, at that time, had an administration that had no experience with war and did not understand it. The President, the Secretary of Defense, and their council decided in December 1965 that they could not win in Vietnam, but continued the war for another 10 years. The public turned so sour that we couldn’t wear our uniform among civilians, but soldiers only go where they are told to go and do what they are told to do. When congress finally folded, defunded the war, and we left, it has been estimated that about two million people were literally dragged out of their houses and killed, when the Communists took over. I knew many of them, and my memory of them suffering that fate will never fade, but Presidents change, administrations change, congressmen change, and time does heal.
I stood at attention and saluted the flag and the national anthem for over 20 years, then the Defense Authorization Act of 2008 authorized all veterans to render the hand salute to the flag, and that act in 2009 authorized all veterans to render the hand salute to the national anthem, so I again stand at attention and salute the flag and the national anthem. I sometimes get a lump in my throat when old glory flies and the anthem is playing, because to me it represents not only the military, but all the good that the United States of America has done in the world, but I hate Taps. Although Taps is played as the last bugle call of the day at every army post, to me it represents funeral.
In the last decade, US Army Special Forces have deployed to 135 of the 195 recognized countries in the world. Not only training armies and fighting terrorists and drug cartels, but providing medical service in remote areas, building clinics and schools, and protecting the local people. The United States of America is doing more good in the world, than the rest of the world combined.
If professional football players are trying to bring attention to a wrong being perpetrated against black people, they are going about it all wrong. When they disrespect our flag and our anthem, I don’t care what they are protesting, because I am blinded by their heinous, violent act of disrespect.
Colin Kaepernick said; “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” The complaint is that white police are harassing and killing black people and that white supremacist neo nazi organizations are not being punished. Even if that is true, which I don’t believe, you get no sympathy from me when you disrespect my flag and anthem. To me that is worse than rioting where people are hurt. It attacks the very core of my being, I see and hear nothing else. You are disrespecting me, personally.
If someone is being wronged, I will help them anyway I can, but if you perform this hideous act then you become my enemy. I no longer watch NFL football, and if I were an NFL sponsor I would terminate those contracts. This is the most serious attack on this country since 9 – 11. I fear that the result of these “protests” will not be attention to a problem but the beginning of the destruction of our country.

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