The men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom as Americans deserve the utmost respect due to them. To consider otherwise would be inexcusable.
But should the #takeaknee protest qualify as contempt for the flag or for veterans? While I have not served in the military, it’s still personally relevant. My grandfather, R. Bala, was a WWII vet. He battled the Japanese on the Philippine island of Mindanao as a Major, under the leadership of General MacArthur. At a time when America was still reeling from the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and when Japan turned its attention on Asia and the Philippines, my grandfather stepped up to the fight.
At the time, the Philippines was a commonwealth of the United States; Filipinos were considered American nationals. To encourage enlistment, the United States promised the Philippine soldiers they would receive benefits for their bravery: a pension and U.S. citizenship.
But he never received any of it.
Shortly after the war, Truman signed the Rescission Act of 1946, rescinding the benefits promised to any Philippine soldiers who enlisted to fight. While some justified the move as a practical effort to reduce the costs of war, many considered the law pure discrimination. For decades, Philippine veterans fought to regain the benefits promised them. It took the U.S. over six decades to right the wrong, with then President Obama pledging to restore their benefits, and pension. Unfortunately, my grandfather died, never receiving the pension or honor due him.
The Rescission Act is just an example in a long line of racial injustices marring American history: slavery, segregation and Jim Crow laws, Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment, DAPL. The list goes on. All of it committed under the same flag that flies to this day.
The bravery soldiers demonstrate overseas does not negate the racial injustices at home. The Philippine soldiers prove it. So the next time #takeaknee comes up, remember my grandfather, and the 200,000 other soldiers like him, who were never given the respect they deserved, under the very flag that flies during the national anthem. If their respect is a concern, then kneeling at the national anthem should be the least of our worries. Chastising a protest doesn’t give them respect. Respect them by supporting veteran hospital overhauls. Respect them by making sure their needs are met. Just respect them; it doesn’t take a bent knee to do that.