Colin Kaepernick: one uninformed soul

Published 11:29 am Friday, September 15, 2017

By now most Americans have seen or heard about former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Recall that he chose to sit on the bench during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner prior to a preseason NFL football game in late summer 2016. When asked why he sat when all other teammates stood respectfully, he replied as follows: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Since then other NFL players have followed his example although they represent a very small percentage of the NFL player population.

Even though the Star-Spangled Banner was written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key, it was not adopted as our National Anthem until a Congressional Resolution in 1931. I doubt Kaepernick knows that 405,000 military personnel lost their lives during WWII fighting for our country represented by that flag. I doubt that Kaepernick knows that 37,000 lost their lives in Korea and 58,000 in the jungles of Vietnam.  Another 7,000 military personnel have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just since that National Anthem was adopted in 1931, a total of 507,000 U.S. military personnel have given their lives and another 967,000 have been wounded in combat operations. These are the men and women we honor with that flag.

Kaepernick presumably eats three meals a day, goes home to his loved ones each night and lives in comfortable surroundings. He has no clue what it was like for the “Greatest Generation” of WWII to leave their families for four long years and storm the beaches of Normandy in France to free people they did not know. Kaepernick does not know what it was like to step off a landing craft on a Pacific island wading in water waist-high with bullets whizzing by. He does not know how it feels to be a soldier or marine in Vietnam sleeping on the bare ground each night and wondering if some Viet Cong guerrilla will slit your throat as you slept.

He does not know what it’s like to see your buddy’s brains stain your shirt from a headshot two feet away. He does not know what it feels like to see someone’s arm and/or leg blown off or see buddies survive burns over 90 percent of their body.

He does not know what it is like to be a Navy aviator flying off on a bombing mission wondering if he/she will return to the ship afterward. He is not aware of the bravery of a Vietnam helicopter pilot landing in a field surrounded by enemy soldiers so that overrun U.S. soldiers could be airlifted. That pilot knew well that helicopter pilots were prime targets since killing the pilot grounded the helicopter.

If Kaepernick feels for those that are oppressed, why not take some constructive action rather than denigrate those who have died to give him the very freedoms he now enjoys. He should work with his federal, state and local representatives who deal with oppression in a proper way. He should use the national stage he has now created to find solutions, not polarize.

He should visit a veterans hospital and see what is happening and talk with veterans who are there. Listen respectfully to their stories. And finally … whenever the National Anthem is played, he should stand at attention, stare at the flag, place his right hand over his heart, and be thankful to those who have given him the right to do so.

ROBERT N. “BOB” HOLT a Franklin native, is a retired professor of business management and real estate at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, N.C. He holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies degrees from Virginia Tech, and was a member of the university’s Corps of Cadets. His e-mail address is