I have struggled with my emotions and thoughts on the subject of professional athletes, and now others, demonstrating disrespect to the flag of our nation.
I’ll begin this by saying that I wholeheartedly believe in the freedoms set down for us in our Constitution and the reasons provided by our Declaration of Independence.
I am a Vietnam War veteran who was 18 years old at the time and I did what I was told to do. Right or wrong? I don’t know anymore, but I was told that I was defending the freedoms of a people that needed help. I was told that it was necessary to “put a stop to communist aggression.”
While I believe that the original intentions of the Vietnam War may have been honorable, I now know that there were other ulterior motives by our government for escalating that war.
With age comes wisdom and with that wisdom comes knowledge. I now struggle with having confidence in the operations and motives of our government.
We could not, and did not, fly the American flag over our compound in Vietnam. We were told that it was not permitted at the time because it was not a “declared war” and we were there in that country as “advisers” to the South Vietnamese military. (Some of us had small American flags posted inside our hootches.)
An entire year with no reveille, no retreat, no pledge of allegiance. And except for the American flag flying over the U.S. Embassy, unless you were lucky enough to get into Saigon, you never saw Old Glory against the blue sky.
On the day that I got out of that country and landed at Honolulu International Airport, I walked out of that airplane, stepped down onto the tarmac, looked up and saw our Stars and Stripes flying high over the airport terminal with the blue sky the background, I bent down and put my right hand on the ground and thanked the good Lord for getting me home in one piece. A sight engraved in my mind, and a feeling embedded in my heart forever.
Because of this, and my persistence of patriotism, I’ve come to this conclusion:
While our nation’s flag stands for the rights to do just what these protesters are doing, it also stands to represent the people of our nation. And it waves over those that have given their lives to defend those freedoms. It does not represent the “government” that has so blatantly moved to cause those freedoms to perish. The government to which the protest is aimed. A dishonorable gesture to the most patriotic symbol of our nation, possibly the only patriotic symbol left, is disgraceful, and should not be tolerated. Our democratic system provides for many other avenues to demonstrate your displeasure with the performance of our government.
The Constitution of the United States of America also provides you with the right to vote. But it is very important to be aware of and educated on the issues involved in your selection.
Larry Arruda is a resident of Kapaa.