Lining the roads on Ford Island this weekend are thousands of boots decorated with tiny American flags, leis, and flowers. Each boot has a photo and represents a soldier, sailor, or airman who has died since September 11, 2001. The sheer number of boots on display is truly overwhelming.
Every year, Fisher House hosts a memorial run to honor these fallen men and women. After the run, the boots are lined up in a field, giving the public a chance to slowly walk past each one, read their names and see their photos.
On each anniversary of the attacks on 9-11, Americans are reminded for a mere moment of the sacrifices so many people made that day and have continued to make – first responders, veterans, innocent civilians, we remember them all.
In military communities, we are reminded that this is why our loved ones are deployed. This is why some of them never come home.
During such an emotional time, it’s hard to tolerate the circus caused by Colin Kaepernick’s actions. This is especially true as the NFL is threatening to fine players for being out of uniform who will be wearing custom 9-11 memorial cleats during their games tomorrow.
I personally, as the wife, daughter, and granddaughter of men who have served in the Navy and Air Force, find Kaepernick’s protest distasteful and the NFL’s actions at the very least hypocritical (Kaepernick got no response from the NFL when he wore socks that depicted cartoon police pigs).
Paying your respects during the national anthem harms no one. Refusing to do so has caused grave offense among the military community, first responders, and many other Americans.
I believe the national anthem is bigger than any single issue. I believe the flag represents our ideals – not our reality. In protesting during the national anthem, Kaepernick is hardly making a positive point.
I also believe Kaepernick is completely within his rights to refuse to stand during the national anthem. We live in a country where we are not forced to bow down to anyone or anything.
We praise the heroism and sacrifices of our service members who fight and die overseas to preserve our freedom. This freedom must include the freedom of those with whom we disagree.
The mere fact that Kaepernick can refuse to stand during our national anthem on nationally broadcasted television and still keep his job, not to mention his life, is a fact worth celebrating.
And no matter what we say, Colin Kaepernick is going to sit down. But his protest (and the players who have followed him) does not define America.
Be annoyed. Be offended. Stop rooting for him, stop rooting for the 49ers, and even hate on the NFL (what’s new?).
But don’t let 9-11 be about glorifying one man’s protest. Rather than accusing Kaepernick of cheapening the sacrifices of American veterans, let us celebrate their commitment to all of our freedom.
Remember the fallen and honor their memory. Make tomorrow about THEM, not him.