Letter: Think twice about disrespecting veterans

From: Russell Poling Sr.


The media is full of reports about sports players disrespecting our national anthem by taking a knee. There also are reports of people burning or standing on our national flag.

These events have touched off debates about freedom of speech that have gone as high as our new president-elect. There is talk of passing legislation that would make it a crime, punishable by jail, for desecrating the flag.

Sanctions have been recommended by the sports teams for the anthem kneelers. There are talks of boycotts against the NFL.

As an honorably discharged and retired veteran I have to say that I am personally offended when the anthem or flag is disrespected. I devoted 20 years of my life to protect and defend this great nation.

Just because I am offended, that does not mean those who offend me should be sanctioned or give up their rights. I don’t need a safe space to protect my feelings.

I feel that the First Amendment gives people the right to sit down during the national anthem and it also allows burning the flag.

However, I would like to convey to those who would disrespect the anthem or the flag to think real hard about your actions.

To many in this country, including myself, the anthem and the flag are more than just a song or a piece of cloth. They are symbols that we and others hold dear. Many men and women gave their life in defense of these symbols and the country they represent.

Recently, I had the privilege to visit the National Military Cemetery for the Pacific and the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii.

The cemetery holds the remains of men and women killed in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. I found the grave of one young man who was killed on Dec. 7, 1941, when his ship was attacked by the Empire of Japan. He was 19 years old.

This cemetery has a memorial garden that contains the names of more than 28,000 men and women who died in combat but their final resting place is known only to God.

A majority of these are sailors and Marines whose ship or submarine was sunk, many of which have never been located.

Imagine the anguish of the families of these 28,000 men and women. They did not receive a body to properly bury. They only knew that their loved one was missing in action and presumed dead.

At the USS Arizona Memorial, that wreck still contains the remains of more than 1,100 men who died on that beautiful Sunday morning in December of 1941.

Near the Arizona is a memorial for the over 400 sailors and Marines that perished on board the USS Oklahoma.

On the other side of Ford Island lies the capsized wreck of the USS Utah. Fifty-eight men died that day.

If you want to kneel during the anthem or disrespect our flag, remember those who died before you disrespect their memories.