Publisher’s Perspective

Chad Koenen

Long before Colin Kaepernick was making headlines for not standing during the National Anthem, my cousin and I made a similar decision when we were younger—one that thanks to the stern words from a veteran neither of us repeated. 

Sometime in the early to mid 1990s my family attended a water ski show in central Minnesota.

Though I am not exactly sure how old we were at the time, my best guess is we were around 10-12 years old, we were on our own as we forced our way to a front row seat. Our parents decided to sit somewhere else and as a pre-teen we thought we were quite “cool” on our own.

As everyone began to stand for the National Anthem we remained sitting. It wasn’t that we were protesting what we felt were injustices in our society, or to raise awareness for another cause, we simply thought we were too cool and didn’t see the need to stand at attention.

Shortly after the National Anthem ended, a gentleman sitting right behind us told us to stand up. He was a veteran, and after repeated requests for us to stand up were ignored, he found a different way to get our attention when he took my hat that was turned backwards off my head and threw it to the ground. 

Being a pre-teen we immediately went to tell an adult with our group about this angry old guy who threw my hat on the ground. When we got to the part about not standing for the National Anthem the mood of the conversation quickly changed. Needless to say, being told to apologize to the guy who took off my hat was not what we were expecting to hear. 

We apologized to the veteran, and in return, he told us why standing for the National Anthem was so important to him. 

He served in the Army and watched as men he considered “friends” and “brothers” were killed. He was shot at, feared for his life, and fought for the right that we could enjoy a sunny afternoon at a water ski show. He didn’t hold back, and  shared a life lesson that we would remember decades down the road. 

So as we get closer to Veterans Day, make sure to remember the sacrifices made by our veterans and their families. Yes, we have a right to post just about anything we want on Facebook or Twitter, we also have the right to not stand during the National Anthem, but doing so can also be a disrespectful display to the very people who gave up everything to fight for freedom. It isn’t just about some petty disagreement or being “too cool” to stand, the National Anthem is one of the few times we as a country come together to honor those who have came before us and continue to fight for our freedom. 

Had we known this person was a veteran would we have acted differently? I would like to think so, but the point of the story is that we don’t know who our veterans are from minute-to-minute. Veterans don’t usually advertise what they have done for our country. They are bankers, they are farmers, teachers, salesmen and stay at home moms. Veterans come from every walk of life and it is important to respect, not disrespect their contributions for our country. So for that reason we should respect the flag and our veterans all the time and not just when it is convenient.

Unfortunately, it took a story from a veteran 25-some odd years ago for me to realize that fact. But it was a lesson I will never forget.