I was raised to stand during the national anthem, take my hat off and place my hand over my heart. Growing up I always had goosebumps while the band played the national anthem thinking of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Later after becoming a soldier I thought more about friends who didn't make it home and still others who are deployed across the globe doing their job to keep us safe.
I'll teach my son and daughter to do as I was raised because of what I believe in. As the world becomes an ever increasingly divided place, our country, our flag, our anthem and our values can and should be what unites us.
At some point I expect my children to ask me why they have to stand while other kids don't. It's a question I asked my father when I was a kid. I'll tell them that everyone should stand and respect our flag and our national anthem, but because we live in America no one has to. They have the right to talk during the anthem, order a hot dog, or kneel in protest if they choose. We don't have to like it but we should try to understand their perspective as we would expect them to understand ours.
While I wish everyone would stand during our anthem, I also wish that everyone was treated equal in our great nation regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Sadly, as great as our nation is, we still have work to do. Ultimately, we should celebrate our diversity because it is what makes us great and what brings us together. That includes the right people have to kneel in protest during the national anthem.
To be clear, I will always stand during the anthem and believe others should do the same. Perhaps those kneeling in protest have a similar perspective of their actions during the anthem, I don't know. While I try to understand their perspective and actions, I would ask them to try and understand mine. At the end of the day we needn’t hate or talk down to one another. We can even be friends.
A man I know and respect often says "we are the land of the free because of the brave." In my mind, that is why I will always stand. At the same time, I'll change one word (replace 'say' with 'do') from a famous quote by Evelyn Beatrice Hall and say to those who decide to kneel, "I disapprove of what you do, but I will defend to the death your right to do it."
Regardless of whether you stand or kneel, let us resolve ourselves to be united as a people who believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Let us reject hate and divisiveness while treating others how they would like to be treated. All of us can and should lead by example allowing our actions to speak louder than words. Some will stand, some will kneel and we will all be Americans.