A close friend of mine from college, who I follow on Facebook, has contributed a substantial response to the last year’s controversy regarding those professional athletes who kneel during the National Anthem. (His post is currently public, so you can see that I’m not making this up.)

His perspective is worth reading and sharing. He has a long history of service in the U.S. military—21 years—and has served as a prosecutor  recently as a Judge Advocate for the U.S. Army. As long as I’ve known him (more than 25 years), he’s been a conservative voice that I admire and respect. His words here are powerful and demonstrate great discernment. Feel free to share this with your own social media community.

I proudly fly the American flag in front of my home. I wear it with pride on my right shoulder of my uniform. I always stand at attention for the anthem, whether I’m in uniform or not. If I’m outside in uniform, I salute. If I’m civilian clothing, I put my hand over my heart.

I was bothered by the kneeling football players last year at first. When Bronco linebacker Brandon Marshall took a knee it bugged me. From my perspective, he, Kaepernick, and others should have showed respect and made their point some other way.

But then I listened to what they had to say.

I realized they were not attempting to disrespect the flag, the anthem, or the country. In essence, they were doing what we often see players do when a fellow Soldier is hurt – they take a knee to show solidarity with the injured. Those taking a knee during the anthem were saying that our country is injured, that when there is injustice, then taking a knee is appropriate.

Consider that we often fly flags at half-staff when we honor someone who died. It does not diminish the flag to do so.

These players are not burning the flag out of hate or ignorance. They are not stepping on it just to get attention. They are not laughing and ignoring the flag or anthem while it plays on TV while they are hanging out in a bar. They are not, in my opinion, being disrespectful to the flag. In fact, they arguably are respecting it and the country it stands for by peacefully calling out what they see, and what likely is, a national problem of injustice.

How many young black men must die or be incarcerated for a problem to be addressed by us all? The BLM movement is not about other lives not mattering, it is a cry that, too often, black lives do not matter enough. I think we could benefit by listening more and finding offense less. And that is what the players taking a knee hope to have happen.

Brandon Marshall did not just take a knee out of ignorance or hatred. He turned it into a means to promote action, going on to meet with Denver Police Chief to discuss issues relating to the use of force. He worked with youth in schools to help make a difference at the ground level. He eventually determined that he had brought attention to what was an important issue and he stood again. Others did also, but not everyone. For many, the issue remains a problem not adequately addressed.

But now we have a President who has made the kneeling of a few players, I believe all of them Black, into a partisan political issue. If it wasn’t a partisan push, he wouldn’t have started this line of attack at a partisan campaign event for an Alabama Senate election. He has continued to push this because it gets his base on fire they will then ignore the underlying issues that give rise to the actions of those players and it galvanizes them to line up for him and it helps to equate loyalty to country to loyalty to him personally.

Using this issue as an attack on patriotism for political purposes does disrespect the flag and the freedoms it represents.

Coming back to my initial point about my respect for the flag as a Soldier (and a citizen), I am also bothered now at the implication that somehow kneeing during the anthem shows disrespect for me or any other Soldier.

It does not.

You don’t stand for the anthem to honor Soldiers. You stand to respect the freedoms and liberty that our Country is founded on, or perhaps kneel to show dismay that such freedoms and liberties may not be equally shared by all. By now arguing, as Trump and his team are doing, that the players who kneel are disrespecting troops is to further politicize the anthem and the military. It is offensive to have our sacrifice be used in this manner to simply make political points. Those in uniform are not window dressing for partisan political snark.

I will not be kneeling during the anthem, not now, not ever. I will continue to teach my kids to stand with respect. That flag represents the best our Nation aims to be, our finest ideals. It also reminds me personally of the sacrifice of those who have died for the nation and whose coffins are draped with this flag. But I can also respect the decision to kneel as a visible and non-violent means to bring attention to injustice.

I respect what Kaepernick and Marshall and many other players have done even while wishing they could have done so in a different manner simply to have avoided the perception by some that they were disrespecting the flag directly or the military who fight with that on their shoulder. But they pushed a conversation through peaceful actions which needed to be had. They demonstrated their concerns for injustice. It was an appropriate action to make their points. And this past weekend, as we watched the President make kneeling football players into his top priority I applaud the actions of those NFL players, coaches, and owners who pushed back and would not let the president bully them or demean their actions.

God bless this great Nation and the Constitution we have established which seeks to protect our Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. God bless those who selflessly serve this country and our communities, whether they are wearing a military uniform, a police uniform, a firefighter’s uniform, or standing in front of a class teaching our children. And bless those who peacefully seeks to raise awareness about injustice and who seek to help us all better confront such injustice in order to better achieve the promise of freedom and justice for all.

I am grateful for my friend’s contribution to this conversation.

I am also grateful for this, from Dr. Theodore R. Johnston, who, on Twitter, reminds us that Colin Kaepernick did not #TakeAKnee out of disrespect, but because he was advised to do so by military veterans who explained that this would be a respectful form of protest.