Pledge Allegiance to My Brother

Photo by Samuel Branch on Unsplash

Dear Us,

It’s football time soon.

Like… maybe.

And with the football season approaching in the wake of the Spring and Summer of 2020, we will see more people taking a knee during the National Anthem, than ever before.

And the nation is shifting.

I am a veteran.

I’m a millennial veteran.

That means I have been thanked for service that I won’t deny but that I’m hesitant to bring up. And I hesitate because from the time I came home and for a further decade beyond, people would thank me for my service the way they awkwardly say “bless you” during church.

Like… I know I’m supposed to do this thing. Is it ok if I do this thing?

And I’ve written before about saying “thank you” on behalf of the people with whom I served who never had a chance to be thanked or live lives away from people and will not be thanked.

I’m a millennial veteran.

For me, that means I travelled to a hot dusty place and did the thing. I did not do it as violently as many. I did not constantly fear for my life. I had anxiety and sleeplessness. But I never fired my rifle at the enemy and, indirect fire aside, he never had a chance to fire at me.

I was support in a support battalion. I had a vital mission I performed with my heart and it built my life.

I’m a millennial veteran.

I saw men I knew and many I did not sent home under a flag and knew that at home, their family would be solemnly handed a similar flag, folded to perfection, and offered on behalf of a grateful nation.

I wore the flag on my right shoulder, backwards as you looked at it, because the flag always moves forward.

I’m a millennial veteran.

I stand and present arms at the passing of the colors and the playing of the anthem.

I define myself this way because I want you to know why it is I do not kneel during the anthem. In my heart, I would personally be disrespecting and dishonoring a great deal of honorable things in my heart. Men I’ve known who have fallen in service. Lives I have seen changed during a lifetime of selflessness. I hold them in my heart when I pay honor.

And I hold a tinge of pain.

Because when I see the colors fly, I see my nation in distress. I don’t see unity. I see a banner flying over controversy and pain. I see a chief executive who dishonors good men and women across his country because they disagree with him vocally. I see institutions with men and women who aggrieve the people they serve because of preconceived notions of normalcy. I see division that runs deep and men and women who turn a willful blind eye because “the song” is playing.

I cannot kneel during the time when I have been trained to stand as a statue, still and reverent.

But I cannot know the heart of a man who does kneel.

And I will ever assume that the person who kneels does not do so to disrespect good people who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

I will assume in the heart of a kneeling man is the pain of injustice festering deeply, but next to that pain, the bright flame of righteous pursuit of justice for all.

I will assume in the heart of a kneeling woman is the desire for her mother and father to go to their rest in a nation that respects them regardless of their appearance and whose children may drive under the safe keeping of law enforcement, and not in fear of them.

I will ask that if a person seeks to kneel during the anthem, that they do so with the pure desire for justice in their heart, and not in animosity toward another person. That emotion is easily turned to hatred, and hatred is the weapon of the enemy just looking to change hands.

That weapon just needs to be released from service.

I will also assume that if someone stands and offers honor during the anthem that they not do so “to show these people how to act.”

People don’t need teachers.

They need partners.

I am a millennial veteran.

My grandfather fought for this country and was taken prisoner by his enemy, forced to eat radishes grown by his own hand, and released to the tensions of the decades to follow.

My father stood sentry over this country during the Cold War and received his hurts on the training field, whose healing would facilitate the healing of warriors from Iraq whose hurts ran deep.

I am a millennial veteran and my days of carrying a rifle are done, but I will always be a veteran.

And know this.

If I could heal your wounds by kneeling, standing, rolling, or flying, I would do it.

If I can speak love into your hurt, I will.

If I can remain silent and let you speak your pain away from your soul, then speak.

I am for the greatness of this nation, not as a restoration of a greatness remembered in rosy inaccurate memories, but as a realization of countless dreams of great men whose history of fighting this nation’s battles, on and off of the field of warfare, is greater than our personal squabbling.

I’ve pledged allegiance to the American flag.
I’ve pledged allegiance to the Christian flag.
I’ve pledged allegiance to the Bible.

And as symbols, I don’t know that I ever knew what that meant to pledge allegiance to them.

I don’t pledge my allegiance to a symbol of American democracy, Christian theology, or whatever the crap we have a flag for Christianity for.

I do continue in allegiance to Christ and His truth because He is the author of freedom and His word is the story within which freedom is defined and offered.

I do continue in allegiance to the concept of what America can be and continue to try and lift her up to that lofty ideal.

But I will always renew my allegiance to my brother, my neighbor, my fellow man every day, not in vapid words spoken to the corner of the room, but in my heart bowed with my brother kneeled during the playing of a song and the raising of a flag, that we both hope, one day, to see represent us both equally.


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