When Veterans take a knee

With tedious and apparently never ending NFL protests continuing, we should examine what it means to “take a knee” and remind everyone not only what the flag stands for, but who it stands for and the great nation it represents.  Our military and Veterans have proudly served our flag, fiercely fought for it, and sometimes sadly returned home under our flag.

NFL players insist when they kneel for the National Anthem they are protesting social injustice or simply showing solidarity with their malcontent team mates.  They certainly have the right to protest; that is not in dispute.  But how do regular folks see it?  What does “taking a knee” mean to most?

Regardless of media spin, football fans see NFL millionaires kneeling during the National Anthem as rejecting our Republic and disrespecting our national ensign.  While our flag theoretically represents the United States, it has also come to symbolize the service and all too often ultimate sacrifice of those heroes who volunteered to wear our nation’s cloth and go into harm’s way to keep the rest of us free and safe.  So the visceral outrage by average Americans is because to them the NFL dishonors Veterans.  They see “taking a knee” for Old Glory very differently.

Taking a knee in protest is a bit of a twist.  Taking a knee traditionally meant something different.  It could show subservience like bowing to a king, but since most western nations have transcended royal rulers, taking a knee more likely means commitment to a cause or willingness to sacrifice.  It can simply mean respect, like reverence to something greater than self – your nation, your convictions, or God.  Most often taking a knee is associated with prayer.  Of course when Tim Tebow did it, the NFL was having none of that.

Our Veterans, current military service members, and first responders take a proverbial knee many times over in their service to the country and fellow citizens.  They take that first knee when they voluntarily swear the oath.  They might not actually “take a knee,” but they devote their hearts to America, dedicate their time and energy to service, and commit themselves to sacrifice as needed and whatever is needed. 

Our military members and their families take many knees for the good of the service.  They take a knee when deploying and separating from loved ones for months or years.  When a child is born while the father is away; or a toddler takes his first steps.  When loved ones are sick or hurting and Mommy or Daddy can’t be there.  All the missed birthdays, anniversaries, ball games, and recitals can make you take a knee.

They take a knee in dangerous and demanding training; not all make it.  Those that do are proud to serve and determined to be the best; they will gladly give it their all.  Wars now seem to be perpetual and pervasive, so no matter what remote corner they might deploy, there is danger.  If not open war, terror.  Sometimes they take a knee when the bullets start flying, but not for long.  Americans fight back for the people and country they love.  And the hardest knee is when in the line of duty they must bury one of their own.

At a recent Flags of Glory ceremony in Mobile, Alabama, United States Coast Guard Gold Star wife, Teresa Taylor, summed it all up:  “No one who has ever received a folded flag would take a knee for our flag.” 

This Veterans Day please remember all that have served and sacrificed in uniform for America.  They have and will take a knee for you when it counts.

“And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight.”  2 Kings 1:13


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