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I Stood That He Might Kneel

Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA Lamar Jones is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant who has written six novels, four available on Amazon.

A Retired Military Man's View of Colin Kaepernick

On the day that I turned eighteen, I presented myself at the office of the USAF recruiter. I was following through on an impulsive decision to enlist that I’d made the night before.

America was still at war in Vietnam but, far from being a starry-eyed idealist eager to fight for my country, I was a disillusioned radical who had squandered three years of high school. In the process I’d painted myself into a corner and I held no viable skills beyond those required for menial work in hotel kitchens. At the time I had no higher education options because I lacked a diploma.

I’d spent a lot of the preceding summer writing very angry poetry about America. Always an avid reader and student of history, I had long been aware of the hypocrisy of the so-called American ideals. Most notably the constitutional line stating that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights...” I considered it a laughable statement to define a country where Native Americans were eradicated, Black people were enslaved, Hispanics were brutalized and marginalized, Asians were exploited, and on and on. You know the reality and it can’t be ignored.

My friends were shocked that I was “going into the war,” but I went with my eyes wide open, even though my heart remained bitter. I went because military service offered me the best opportunity to learn a skill, gain an education, see the world, and become a man. I planned on a four-year stint, with the idea that whatever education I didn’t obtain while serving, I would get using the G.I. Bill after my service.

But Destiny laughs at our plans. My four years became eight, then twelve, until, eventually, I retired after twenty years, having long attained all of the goals I‘d set for myself.

During those twenty years I found that I loved America more than I thought I could. A return to American soil after each sojourn overseas became a special reunion. I never lost my awareness of America’s historical inequities and how those roots stretch into both the present and the future. Though the words of slave-holder Jefferson are not as demonstrably false as when he wrote them, the hollow clang of incompleteness still rings when they’re spoken aloud.

Yet, with all of its faults, America remains my country: the country that I love. And I would have no other. At some point, during my twenty years of service, I began to truly value the role that I played in defending the country and upholding its spoken ideals, even as injustice remained as American as apple pie. When Colin Kaepernick began taking a knee during the National Anthem, I supported him, even though if I were at the same game I would be standing proudly at attention. I’m a military man and that’s what military men do, but standing tall and proud doesn’t blind me to the rightness of his cause. Born and raised in Philadelphia, I learned first-hand the inequities of policing and the disparities in the justice system.

So, a football player kneeled, and many of those who themselves use the time required to play the anthem to check their texts, take selfies, eat hot dogs, or just sprawl in their stadium seats impatiently awaiting the start of the game were outraged. "How dare he?" they shouted. Some supported his right to protest as long as he did so in a more personal, private setting. As if a protest that doesn’t at least hold the potential to offend someone could in any way be newsworthy, or succeed at its purpose of drawing attention to a cause.

The years that I spent in uniform, pledged to uphold and defend the constitution, helped— in some small way— to empower people all across the political spectrum with the right to peaceably state their views consistent with applicable laws and regulations.

There should be no outrage that a football player kneeled. Instead, after all of these years, the outrage should be that there remains a need to call attention to these wrongs. When I’m at a game and the anthem plays, I’ll stand at attention. If everyone around me and players on the field do otherwise, I won’t care. That’s their right. There’s a name for the country that believes in that right. It’s called "America."

Here’s a suggestion that might sound familiar. If freedom bothers you that much, you might consider moving to another country.

© 2017 Lamar Jones


Michelle on September 29, 2017:


That was so eloquently written and I too am s veteran, not of war, but all in all a vet. I agree with what you wrote, I believe this is a country that still has freedom of choice. The people who do kneel do it for their own beliefs or cause and no one should stop them or be critical of them. I would stand!

Lamar Jones (author) from Delaware on September 26, 2017:

Tim & Ken:

Thank you both for your comments. Ken I think any concern that the game will become secondary to the message (perhaps not a bad thing) is proven an unnecessary fear because there have been no disruptions to any games. The anthem finishes, the players take the field, the game continues. People may tune in for the game but tuning out social issues does nothing to improve our country. The best protests, whatever the cause, are typically the ones that force you to acknowledge that they're occurring.

Tim - I think you're spot on.

Scroll to Continue

Again, thank you both. The solution to problems lies in reasoned discourse.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on September 26, 2017:

It's important to note that the most famous boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali, protested the Vietnam War and was voted Athlete of the 20th Century. Also, many NFL teams protested in their own way this weekend. This is bigger than money: it's about our right to stand up for what we believe.

Using a political tactic of "cultural warfare," only divides us, which is the plan of such maneuvers. Not a single player in the NFL, NBA, or MLB said that they did not honor our anthem or flag when I watched television this weekend. However, they understood it was a phony tactic to avoid addressing the real problem: police brutality.

It's easy when you hold the most powerful position in our nation to point at things and say how wrong they are; people will listen. Others must use what's available to them to do the same.

Ken Burgess from Florida on September 26, 2017:

That second to last paragraph is spot on. But...

I do understand how many feel that the football field / Anthem is not the place for political protests, mostly because once you open the Pandora's box of politics onto the football field, the game will become secondary to the message, the cause, the beliefs, etc. being put forth.

There will be no resolution to the social issues by these demonstrations, there will be no 'satisfies all fans' resolution.

People's views on matters vary immensely, different cultures, religions, economic situations. Expressing one's political views during the Anthem, during the game, puts the priority on other issues, making the game secondary, this will prove a costly endeavor for the NFL... people don't tune in to games for politics or lectures on social problems in America, they tune in to escape from politics and problems.

On the side, I really like this person's take on the issue, which is now become a bigger issue for the NFL than one or a few players:

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on September 20, 2017:

I deeply respect you and appreciate your service for our country. What you said hits at the heart of the matter: acting as a democracy is a tough decision for a nation to make. Respecting the rights the people to disagree with you, and even willing to die for it, makes men like you special, indeed.

My family has a long history of military service, so I agree with you in many ways. When a protest has no risk, then it is a useless endeavor.

I am reminded of the Red Tails in W.W. II, they didn't protest being seen as inferior pilots, they got on with the job. However, eventually, they were the desired fighter squadron for bomber escorts in the European theater. I wonder: returning home, to a nation they fought for, wouldn't they have seen police brutality?

This is why what the football player did was important: he stood up in spite of the risks, and knew even as a wealthy and famous man, he would be treated like another Black man once he left the field. A man should not be viewed equal only when he is on the playing or battle field in the eyes of the law. Thank you for eloquently spelling that fact out.

Lamar Jones (author) from Delaware on September 20, 2017:

Good Morning Readmike now,

I agree that the right to protest Kaepernick's actions is as inherent as his right to protest. To your point about his wealth, the strength of his actions is that he is taking them on behalf of others less fortunate, clearly risking all and he has paid a price. My closing statement about leaving the country was sarcasm. It is the willingness to protest a wrong and to fight to make it right that defines the American dream. The country isn't perfect and never will be. It's easy to gloss over the shortcomings and pretend that all is bliss.

Suzie from Carson City on September 19, 2017:

Lamar....Thank you for your service and I wish you a life of health and happiness. You have written a wonderful article.

Read Mike....OMG, Your comment is a thing of beauty~said perfectly and truthfully, I cannot agree more with your sentiments. My Dad/WWII....Husband/Viet Nam....Son/Operation Iraqi well as Uncles, cousins, friends & numerous HS Classmates......I am most grateful to our Military and feel it a privilege and an honor to do all I can to support & assist our Vets. Thank you for your service & this profound comment. Peace, Paula

Readmikenow on September 19, 2017:

Thank you for your military service. I served as did my father, brother, cousins and uncles. We've fought in every war since World War II. Members of my family have purple hearts, silver and bronze stars. We've suffered missing limbs, PTSD, shrapnel wounds, bullet holes and more. Yeah, we've served this country. I don't like what Colin Kaepernick did. Was is disrespectful? Yes. Was I deeply offended. Yes. I think he is getting what he deserves. You see, he's not the only one in this country with rights. NFL owners have the right to run their teams how they see fit, just like Kapernick does to protest. People who protest the NFL because of Kapernick, guess what? That's their right as well. The NFL is a business and politics is killing the business. NFL owner have the right to do what they need to save their business. The viewership and attendance in the NFL is way down. I did not buy season tickets this year and have shut down ESPN. That's my right. I did not watch NFL football to see politics, I watched it to be entertained and get away from politics. Kaepernick has enjoyed many wonderful opportunities most people in this country can only dream of experiencing. He's made far more money and led a much grander life than any member of my family who truly sacrificed for this country. He's a very wealthy man and if he doesn't like it here, he has the financial resources to live a good life any place in the world. I agree with you. If this much freedom bothers anyone; they should consider moving to another country.

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