I still remember like it was yesterday, the first time I saluted the American flag while in uniform. I was at basic combat training as a trainee at Fort Benning Georgia on Independence Day. During an event for trainees to celebrate the holiday, the National Anthem was played and the whole field came to a halt as each soldier came to attention and honored America. I had chills up and down my back as I thought about all of the soldiers that wore the uniform before me and the sacrifices that went with it.

I cringe every time a hear the National Anthem and see people moving, talking and laughing. It’s upsetting to me to see kids in classrooms sitting during the pledge of allegiance.

I was surprised and disappointed to hear that National Football League player Colin Kaepernick chose to sit during the national anthem to protest social issues in our country.

I was less surprised but more disappointed at the following outpouring of anger, hatred, attacks, and commentary over his decision.

Needless to say, he has not broken any laws. Hasn’t even broken any league rules. He just quietly sat to protest and waited for the media to come to him. And waited for the conversation to begin.

I’m saddened because the focus continues to be on him, his socioeconomic status, assessment of his football skills and speculation about his future as a player rather than the issues he’s attempted to draw attention to.

There are many writers out there that can better articulate the irony in this story than me. But I simply look at how passionate I am about my country and the rights we are provided and compare it to his position and stance. I see no reason to hate him, even if I wouldn’t agree with him. I can’t see where this makes him non-patriotic…rather I find his approach very patriotic.

Quiet protests have long been an approach to address civil and social issues in history. We all remember the images of sit-ins at lunch counters in the south during the civil rights movement. We remember how the protestors, both black and white, were attacked and abused. The main difference between them and CK is they were actually breaking the law. It was the store owner’s right to not serve them at the counter.

While I still have trouble referring to myself as a veteran, with almost eight years of service, it’s important to point out that I’m not offended by CK’s stand. I wear the uniform to fight for his rights as well.

I watched and listened to how people jumped to defend pro-women basketball players for breaking league rules to wear shirts that lauded supporting black lives matter movement and many other examples of celebrities being considered heroes for speaking out, protesting, threatening to move to a new country and list goes on and on.

CK’s stand, while apparently very controversial, seems to have gained more attention than those one-day headlines. I doubt, however, the focus ever shift from him to the issues he has raised. I also doubt people ever be happy until he loses his football career and files bankruptcy and ends up in a soup line.

A mediocre football player with a nice salary and decent career that has helped a number of people in his own way while mostly staying under the radar chose to step up to address issues that he felt he was obligated to use his platform for.

I’ve heard it said over and over again that these professional athletes need to do more with their platform and now we say: “NOPE! Sit down (rather stand up) and shut up.”