Wandering down a row of continuous tombstones with seemingly no end, I felt a cold sense of sorrow and deep sadness fall quickly upon me. I gazed at a marker, each one staggered to not obstruct the marker behind it, sharp and white, row after row. My mind aimlessly began to wander from the names engraved in the solid stone, to think about when they lived and about the loved ones who supported these soldiers. Name after name and tomb after tomb, there is one thread that profoundly ties every woman and man together who has been laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. Not merely that they all served the United States of America, but that they were willing to give the ultimate sacrifice to defend all that has remained outlined within our Constitution and the firm pillars upon which our country was built, most notably freedom.
With Veterans Day being honored in November, our hearts deeply reflected on how veterans have gone above and beyond the call of duty in making sacrifices. Their service and heroic commitment to our country would inspire many and guide countless more to serve a forever grateful and indebted nation. The flag of the United States of America is a symbol of democracy around the world and indeed represents the moral and just actions the United States takes to stand up to rogue regimes and supply aid to foreign nations and allies alike. I believe the majority of society today sees the role which the American flag plays within our country. Furthermore, value the bloodshed and lives lost to defend the flag, but there seemingly is a clash when it comes to some individuals and the way in which they show their utmost respect to our flag and the self-proclaimed "protests" to our National Anthem that is remarkably disrespectful.
The National Football League, players, owners, and other individuals have joined the conversation after recent and extensive "protests" of our National Anthem before the start of televised football games. Many have called out Colin Kaepernick for being the poster child for this "movement." His decision to take a knee during the presentation of our nation's colors and the playing of the national anthem was a complete disrespect to all those who have given their life to defend each one of us. Military families, and men and women who have served and currently are negatively impacted by the actions of Kaepernick and other players who chose to kneel. Frankly put, it doesn't pay reverence to those who have served and stood up to defend football players like Kaepernick and his family overseas. Recently named "Citizen of The Year" by GQ Magazine. While he has served his underlying mission, Kaepernick has drawn a divisive wedge in America by not showing respect to a flag that represents the United States values. It has become out of sorts and out of bounds for a player to make a spectacle while conducting a sacred anthem which all Americans should pledge their allegiance to defending and protecting. From what was perceived as an action has become a disrespect to many that was never recognized by Kapernick. Recently he has decided to arrange attorneys and outline a grievance against all thirty-two NFL teams for collusion for not picking him up as a free agent. Respectfully, my question to Kaepernick is why not merely stand up and value those who have died for your freedom and find other time in the spotlight with media and press coverage to express your political beliefs?
After the tremendous and uncontrollable amount of calls to "boycott" the NFL, they would examine their stance on the issue. A statement delivered by the Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League left an open door to the behavior and did not condemn the players who took a knee, which also didn't respect those who have fought to defend our freedom and rights as citizens. The statement promptly was succeeded by a tweet and pointed remarks from President Donald J. Trump who took little time to place Goodell in his direct crosshairs. "Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country. Tell them to stand!" This message resonated with Americans and patriots alike across our nation, and viewership of NFL games was in decline due to the action or lack of actions taken by the National Football League.
Most recently, we have seen a significant number of news stations avoid the controversy by skipping out on showing the national anthem and presentation of our nation's colors on live TV completely. This has directly affected many lifelong NFL loyalists to post Facebook videos of themselves burning their jerseys due to the lack of respect shown by players and "politically correct" franchises who are not willing to call a spade a spade. The organization must demand that their team stands to pay respect to all those who have defended and given them a chance ever to step foot on a football field and live in a free nation. We will continue to see many of these "protests" be covered and displayed by the mainstream media but my message to you is when you see this taking place, even at a high school gym, be willing to stand up and say something about the complete disrespect that it indeed is!
I stand for my uncle who served in Vietnam. I stand for dear friends who remain deployed overseas. I stand for those who died and returned to loved ones in a casket. I rise to respect those who sacrificed it all for all we have, and I hope you stand and put your hand over your heart, and salute the flag of our United States of America.
Zachary Thomas Petrizzo is a freshman at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a featured writer for The Campus Conservative.