Dear President Trump

Several New England Patriots players kneel during the national anthem in September. Michael Dwyer, AP.

by Rob Howard
Political Columnist

Over the past few months, you have spent a lot of time talking and tweeting about patriotism, the flag, the national anthem and National Football League players. You clearly have the idea that soldiers have served, fought and died for the flag and the national anthem.

As a former Major in the United States Air Force, with 12 years of service, I’d like to enlighten you about why people serve in the Armed Forces. And I’ll start by saying that it’s not why you think.

One of President Trump’s many tweets in September about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

Americans from all walks of life, over the last two and a half centuries, have fought for the rights and the freedoms that we have in our country. From before we were a country, people have been willing to put their lives on the line to ensure that they and their fellow citizens could live in a land of freedom.

My oath as a commissioned officer was, and still is, sacred and solemn to me. I swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” I took this obligation freely, with no mental reservation. I promised to “well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.”

Notice that I swore allegiance to the Constitution. Not to the flag. Not to the national anthem. They are symbols of our mighty country. But it is the Constitution that draws my undying allegiance.

We are the same age. When I went on active duty in 1969, I was 23. I chose to put my obligation to protect the rights we have in America before my personal safety and comfort. You had a series of deferments and never served.

I entered at the peak of the Vietnam War. By the time I was called to active duty, I was against that war. The streets of America were full of anti-war protestors. I joined the military to protect the rights of those protesters.

Among the freedoms I served to protect are freedom of speech and press, freedom of assembly, the right to petition the government for a “redress of grievances” and for freedom of, and from, religion. It seems clear to me that you either have no knowledge of those rights or that you have contempt for some of them.

Had it been an issue back then, I would have served to protect the right of NFL players to ‘take a knee’ or refuse to stand during the national anthem. I doubt that you have a clue about why players might not want to stand. They are protesting the way people of color are treated in our country. I served to protect their protest.

I value my time in the military. It gave me many lessons in self-discipline and leadership. I learned how to organize my thoughts, set my priorities and protect those with whom I served. It’s too bad that you didn’t have time to serve in the military and get the opportunity to learn about self-discipline and leadership.

In your oath of office, you promised to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” It would be nice if you would find a copy and read it.

Respectfully yours,

Rob Howard

Copyright The Gayly – November 11, 2017 @ 7:30 a.m. CST,