Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

From One Who Sacrificed: Stop Using Me in Your Anti-“Take a Knee” Argument

I served. I sacrificed. And I'm not offended when people take a knee.

You’ve probably been hearing it not just daily, but in a dozen different places across the internet: taking a knee during the national anthem is disrespectful to those who sacrificed in the service of this country.

I’ve heard it so many times in the last week, from the President to random people with flags as a profile picture, that I’m exhausted by it.

What has been even more difficult when listening to this “you’re disrespecting our vets” argument, is watching people like myself be put at the center of it– often by people who are not one of us. These self-professed “great Americans” claim to be the ones who honor me, and that others are diminishing my service.

Well, I’m tired of random people on the internet speaking for me. I have a voice, and I am capable of using it.

I am a retired active duty member of the United States Armed Forces. I also have a 90% disability rating with the Veterans Administration for service-connected disabilities.

I gave this nation a significant chunk of my life– and gave it parts of me that I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be able to get back when it was over.

You see, when you talk about this specific group of people who sacrificed for the nation, I intimately know who you’re talking about– because I see it every time I look in the mirror.

I know what it’s like to experience every right of passage that military members experience, from that initial moment all your hair is cut off, to the first time you feel the recoil of an M-16. I know all the tricks to getting a boot to hold its shine, how to properly starch a uniform, which MRE people are most likely to fight over, and I can decode acronyms and phrases that might as well be an ancient language to civilians.

Oh, and I totally know what Birth Control Glasses are.

More than just those typical rights of passage, I know what some other military experiences are like, too.

I know what seven consecutive years overseas feels like, and how you can almost forget what it’s like to be in the nation you’re actually serving.

I know how painful it is to realize it’s been nearly three years since you’ve been able to go home because your duty station is in such a remote part of the world, that it is financially cost prohibitive to go back and visit.

I know the pain of spending Christmas alone– over, and over and over again, and how you wish you’d grown numb to a life where friends often seem to leave faster than you can make new ones.presbush

I know what the lock-down on September 11th felt like in Korea, what it’s like to pick up the phone and hear “Threatcon Delta! This is NOT an exercise”, and what it’s like to deploy last minute to a hostile fire zone–  prohibited from telling anyone where you’re going or when you’ll be back. I also know that instead of some huge fanfare when you return from down range, sometimes you don’t even have anyone to pick you up at the airport.

And when you’re done? Well, I know that dealing with the VA is the most devaluing and insulting experience I have ever faced as a veteran. I know how they will drag their feet as long as possible on disability claims, how they’ll send you letters for 3-5 years saying they’re “still reviewing your medical records,” and how the entire process feels like a game where they are constantly trying to find any angle to blame medical conditions on something before the military– as if rigorous medical screening weren’t part of the process to get into the military in the first place.

So you know what? I can speak for myself on this whole “taking a knee disrespects our vets,” because I’ve earned my right to speak.

Here is what I’d like to tell all of you who make this argument on “my behalf.”

On the day I entered the military, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I didn’t take that oath lightly– it meant something to me.

While our constitution covers a lot of ground, what stood out in my mind all those years were the basic freedoms granted by the first amendment: the freedom of religion, freedom of speech/expression, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and the right to petition the government.

The chunk of my life I gave? All those things that I lost and can never get back? Well, I did that to support these core ideals that Americans have long cherished.

And what I need those of you who claim taking a knee disrespects my sacrifice to hear, is this:

Instead of disrespected, I feel my sacrifice deeply honored every single time I see a football player take a knee– because that represents the freedom of speech and expression that I gave so much of myself to uphold.

In fact, nothing honors my sacrifice more than the public exercise of these core freedoms.

What I’d also like you to know is that it is actually your position that disrespects what I have given for this nation.

When you vilify and harass someone for the peaceful exercise of their rights, and when you participate in a public campaign to harm or end their careers simply because they are using the very rights veterans like myself have sacrificed for, you disrespect me.

You insult me. You dishonor me.

You exploit me for your own cause.

In fact, there is nothing more opposed to the values I fought for than to use threats and coercion to force someone to express something they don’t wish to express.

You say you are offended when these players take a knee, and that they are disrespecting my sacrifice to the nation.

But the reality?

There is no position that disrespects me, or dishonors my sacrifice, more than yours does.


Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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62 Responses

  1. This is a great read of your perspective on this. I humbly thank you for your service for this great nation!

  2. Wahhh. I’m a 26 year retiree with a 90% VA rating, 50% combat related. I’ve been in 3 combat zones and have been awarded a bronze star and have made the same sacrifices this crybaby has. I think taking a knee during the national anthem is the ultimate in disrespect. I’ve saluted the flag in 16 countries on 4 continents. Every time I salute I think of those who have sacrificed more than I and the least I can do to show my respect for them is to stand proud for 1 minute and 18 seconds (longer if I was in another country).

    1. … and that has not been denied you, by anyone. If taking a knee during the national anthem is the ultimate in disrespect for you, and you don’t wish to be disrespected, then I would suggest you don’t take a knee for your comrades at arms, or your friend’s/family member’s funeral, or your God. You see, they’re very quiet when they take a knee so as to not disturb your public display of respect. Maybe, we could be a little more quiet, too, and not disturb the respect they on their knees are showing for the lives lost in fear of those who once shared their heritage.

      Now, a Nazi salute might be disrespectful toward our national anthem and our flag, but surely not quietly taking a knee or, even, sitting this one out.

  3. “In fact, there is nothing more opposed to the values I fought for than to use threats and coercion to force someone to express something they don’t wish to express.”

    Sir, I am again delighted that you are so willing to express such clear support to all those Evangelical musicians, florists, and bakers who are finding themselves forced to express things they don’t wish to express. Your choice of words is spot-on.

  4. Congrats to those draft dodger supporters who come on here to discredit a veteran and his service because of his political views.

    What a wonderful example of America you are.

  5. Firstly, thank you for your service. I will honor that no matter what.

    Secondly, it seems that the majority of your military peers disagree with what you’ve said. When people speak up for our military personnel, they are speaking for the majority, not every individual.

    Thirdly, this seems to be more about your political stance than your support of free speech. In one paragraph you support and celebrate those using their free speech to protest the flag while also condemning others for using their free speech to demand non-legal consequences. So do you support free speech, or do you only support free speech in the name of the ideology that you agree with?

  6. It’s too bad you don’t stand with most of us who also served. In fact, you would be the ONLY veteran I’ve heard express this view. 90% disability? Clearly there are some issues. I hope you get the help you need soldier.

  7. Hope all you guys and your loved ones weren’t anywhere near the appalling shooting in Las Vegas.

    RIP those who went out to enjoy life only to have it destroyed.

  8. Seems This disabled vet is confused ! President Trump is standing up for patriotism not asking for firings ! It is refreshing to see a president lift some standards back up instead of breaking them down ! Go TRUMP !!!

    1. Trump is playing to his Deplorable base – and not a whit more. This Viet Nam era combat vet agrees with the writer of this piece and supports the NFL players taking a knee and/or locking arms in unity to make a statement against the unequal treatment of non-white people by our police and court system. P.S. I am also old and white.

  9. Btw what’s the third verse of the Star Spangled Banner about?

    No refuge could save the hireling and slave
    From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

  10. Thank you for eloquently stating what I have thought, and thank you for your service, and sacrifice.

  11. Thank you for your service. My best friend was in Afghanistan and my girlfriend and both her parents were in the military and they are tired of people speaking for them as well. My girl posted a piece on her FB page about that and she is glad to see other veterans speaking out as well. It doesn’t matter what side of the fence you are on about the protest, it is time that people stop exploiting our veterans and using them as political props, taking ownership of them, using them to justify bullshit, and speaking for them. As my girl said, if she served in the military than she is quite capable of speaking for herself.

  12. Well we can see how much respect people have for their servicemen and their country when they question a serviceman’s record because they disagree with them, while supporting a draft dodger.

  13. Amen!!! Very well said. Peaceful protests don’t create “sons of b*tches”. They create heroes.

  14. As a veteran I honor your service, as a Vietnam vet myself I don’t agree with you. we were sent to fight a war (because of a lie by a Dem. president)that none of us wanted. Where 58,000 died and at that time it wasn’t an all volunteer service. We had thousands of draftees that were totally against the war, but i never seen or heard of a one of them that took a knee when the national anthem played.
    I’m sorry you lost limbs serving your country, but remember you volunteered, you weren’t forced. And I saw a vet missing 4 limbs competing in marathons and still “stand” for the anthem, You have your rights and opinions, but I know you don’t speak for most vets.Our main concern was getting back to the “world”. I really believe you’ll change your mind as you get older. I know i was bitter for years after Nam

  15. It’s strangely entertaining and slightly troubling to see how many negative comments there are about this piece from people who seem to have not read it. It’s either that, or they are unable to comprehend, refine, condense, and articulate clearly what they are reading. Have we, as a nation, become so driven by emotion, pride, and the need to be right that there’s no time left for empathy, reason, and objectivity? Have we become so afraid of opposing views that the only thing that really matters is mindlessly crushing them? Are we no longer capable of communicating in charity and truth? Has our political polarization become complete and irreversible? Lots of rhetoricals, but I’m just thinking out loud after having read some more of the posts. I like to believe there is far more common ground than we realize, we just need to take a deep breath and calm down enough to see it. Colossians 3:12-14
    “Men think that it is impossible for a human being to love his enemies, for enemies are hardly able to endure the sight of one another. Well, then, shut your eyes and your enemy looks just like your neighbor.” ~Søren Kierkegaard

  16. Thank you, Mr. Corey, for saying so eloquently what I have been attempting to say for quite some time. I, too, served, back in the 70s/80s. I was fortunate to come out with all of my body parts. And I, too, am more angered by POTUS calling for punishment for those protesting than by the protests themselves. And, I, too, don’t need anyone speaking “for me.” Thank you for your service. And thank you for putting into words what I have been stumbling and mumbling trying to say. Thank you.

  17. My letter sent today to an old friend who makes the ‘civic duty’ argument that all should stand for the flag …


    I’ve slept on your argument and I find myself agreeing with it today — but to be honest with an old friend I also find within myself a strong sympathy for the kneelers and their cause …

    Perhaps I’ve shared with you before there’s an American flag right behind my pulpit … I’m sure no one notices it as I preach but each time I move it to the other side of the front of the church, it keeps mysteriously moving back behind my pulpit — probably one of our veterans feels it deserves a place of honor in any church … to avoid offending him and others I’ve decided to fly that ‘higher helicopter’ we talk about and let the flag stay behind me …

    Why would I remove the US flag from our church if I could do it without dividing the congregation? … the answer should be an easy one for committed Christians, but for many it isn’t — “Jesus is Lord,” ergo ‘flag and country’ are manifestly not … as someone who for seven years now has preached the Gospel in its undeniable bias for the victims of power and privilege, I find it my higher Christian duty to honor the hope of those victims above even the civic sacrifices and ideals the flag represents … I will stand during the anthem and at the same time stand with the kneelers at prayer for justice …

    And so dear friend, in the matter of those kneeling at the flag’s anthem, my question for you is the same one I often ask my congregation from the pulpit on any and every question of our troubled day — how is your faith expressing the Good News of God for the oppressed and disinherited?

    Yours in the Lord Christ … R.

  18. We have no problem with them protesting, but it’s the ‘when’ and the ‘where’ that’s the big problem. The other big problem is they are protesting a lie they created themselves for a condition that doesn’t exist.

  19. Thanks for your service to the US and thanks for your continued service to the Kingdom of God. I would like for all of you to think of something, A dollar bill. It only has value because of the idea behind it. When we or our government begin to disagree on the value of the dollar bill it will substantially change this country. A flag is simply a piece of cloth. It’s the idea behind it that has meaning. When we begin to disagree on the idea behind the meaning of the flag it will destroy this country.

  20. To all those making positive comments Thank you for your service and your sacrifice. It is because of you that I take a knee in UNITY with my brothers and sisters around the world. For those who have left us quietly in death I stand up for the battles lost and won and take a knee to insight UNITY UNITY ✊?✊?✊?✊?✊?✊?

  21. People need to calm down a little, including me. But, a few things to consider:
    about the NFL protests. They have failed on three counts. First a protest should galvanize your supporters on the issue. The method of protest they chose has divided the camp between those who believe sitting for the National Anthem is correct and those who know it is not. Failure number one.
    Secondly, what people fail to realize is that “We the people of the United States” (the first line of the Constitution) are the Republic for which that flag stands. The flag belongs to us not to the government. The government changes every two years when there is an election. The flag hasn’t fundamentally changed in 240 years. When Trump was elected we didn’t take down the Obama Flag and put up the Trump Flag, no, the flag stayed because it represents “We The People”. So when they choose that method of protest they are actually protesting themselves, me, you, our families, George Washington and his fight for independence, Abraham Lincoln and his fight against slavery, Martin Luther King and his fight against discrimination, they are protesting all efforts throughout history that have made this “a more perfect union.” Not getting out an appropriate message is failure two.
    Lastly and most importantly, when Colin Kaepernick began this he was trying to bring attention to a very important issue. An issue that needs to be addressed. The NFL players have successfully shifted the focus from that issue to them. People no longer talk about the original issue at hand, now they just talk about the players and what they will do at the next game. It is now more about them than the original issue. I can tell you this if I were a group trying to get the attention of the nation onto a cause I would ask the athletes not to help, they would just be a distraction from what is important. Failure number three.
    US Army Special Forces Retired
    De Oppresso Liber

  22. Thank you Benjamin. I read your post 1/2 hr. ago and I’ve just stopped crying so maybe I can post. My brother served (foot shoulder in the Army, know his division had a horse-stallion as their mascot ) in Viet Nam during the Tet offensive. Like a true Vet, he’s told me very little, and what he HAS told me, makes me “cringe” of how our Country handled this “war.” He is now in a nursing home, suffering not only PTSD but also Parkinson, from exposure from Agent Orange. He’s 72 and doesn’t want to get any older. So, when I backed on FB of our athletes, I could take the vile responses. My Brother served, and served well. He gave up his living life.

  23. Thank you for your service, and for stating my views so elequently.

    If you look at history you can see how false patriotism can be a tool for anarchy.

  24. Although the protest is not over a flag or an anthem, even if it was, the day we elevate pieces of cloth or music above personal freedom is the day we’ve slipped into fascism.
    – Another vet tired of non-vet chicken-hawks misinterpreting patriotism and the military.

  25. Thank You for your service and for taking the time to write this. I pray EVERYBODY reads it and tries to understand.


  26. Hey guys, it’s only Trump trying to manipulate the racists in Alabama to vote for his boy.

    But not even that dog whistling worked.

    Welcome Roy Moore to the US Senate.

    What hideous creatures you have in American politics.

  27. As one who also served and left parts of myself that I’ll never recover – Thank you!!! for your words. That is exactly what I’ve been thinking: My oath is protect and defend the constitution, fundamental to which is the right to free speech, protest and equal protection under the law. Antithetical to the constitution is anyone who says “You can’t protest; you can’t speak up.” BTW: I’ve been wondering if the president, as commander in chief, is subject to UCMJ.

  28. Oh, Benjamin, thank you!!! I have been trying and trying to figure out why people keep saying this protest is disrespectful to veterans, and they keep saying the veterans fought for the flag and the fallen died for the flag and this disrespects the flag. YOU gave me exactly what I’ve needed to hear: you sacrificed, not for a flag, but for a core value of liberty that the protesters are exercising just as they should, in a non-violent way. It’s shutting them down that disrespects your sacrifice. Thank you for saying this. God bless you.

  29. You made a big mistake joining that terrorist gang called the USA Babylon, you did nothing for Jesus or His Kingdom, you should renounce your sins of being a part of that evil satanic military, and tell everyone to turn their back on that flag. you are not serving Jesus by serving the USA Babylon empire. Peace.

  30. This is a good piece, but you did get something wrong, Ben. The First Amendment doesn’t “grant” rights, it protects them. Our rights are inherent, and the Constitution simply acknowledges that fact. If we’d ever accept that they are “granted”, then we’d accept that they could be taken away.

  31. Come on Ben. You sacrificed for the good people who are Neo-Nazis to march against Jews, not black sons of bitches to protest against police brutality.

  32. I wish these people would stop thanking me for my service. They don’t appreciate it. They appreciate being able to use me as a talking point until I tell them to stop. Then they get angry because I’m not being a proper, quiet little puppet.

    1. I am torn on that point. I understand and agree because it is at best habitual good manners … but … I was spit on by friends when I returned from Vietnam. I would prefer one to the other.

  33. Benjamin Corey, I served during peacetime (78 to 82), and can’t lay claim to any extraordinary dedication, any sacrifices beyond performing my assigned duties. I was a floundering young man with no idea of what to do with my life, and in truth, I never liked the service. Yet in that time the people I served with, from so many backgrounds, from almost every ethnic group, every part of America, from territories, religions, sexual orientation, etc, etc. ALL of them affirmed that the most important redeeming factor of their enlistment (happy or not), was taking the stand to protect America’s liberties, chief amongst these – free speech.
    Whatever one may say, if they are not advocating for free speech, they are not advocating for liberty, nor are they advocating for America.
    Thank you for your fine essay.

  34. Not an NFL fan (prefer real football like rugby league) and the only teams I know are the 69ers and the Chicago Bulls. But from the players themselves…..

    Eric Reid: Why Colin Kaepernick and I Decided to Take a Knee

    In early 2016, I began paying attention to reports about the incredible number of unarmed black people being killed by the police. The posts on social media deeply disturbed me, but one in particular brought me to tears: the killing of Alton Sterling in my hometown Baton Rouge, La. This could have happened to any of my family members who still live in the area. I felt furious, hurt and hopeless. I wanted to do something, but didn’t know what or how to do it. All I knew for sure is that I wanted it to be as respectful as possible.

    A few weeks later, during preseason, my teammate Colin Kaepernick chose to sit on the bench during the national anthem to protest police brutality. To be honest, I didn’t notice at the time, and neither did the news media. It wasn’t until after our third preseason game on Aug. 26, 2016, that his protest gained national attention, and the backlash against him began.

    That’s when my faith moved me to take action. I looked to James 2:17, which states, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” I knew I needed to stand up for what is right.

    I approached Colin the Saturday before our next game to discuss how I could get involved with the cause but also how we could make a more powerful and positive impact on the social justice movement. We spoke at length about many of the issues that face our community, including systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality and the criminal justice system. We also discussed how we could use our platform, provided to us by being professional athletes in the N.F.L., to speak for those who are voiceless.

    After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.

    It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.

    It should go without saying that I love my country and I’m proud to be an American. But, to quote James Baldwin, “exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

    I can’t find words that appropriately express how heartbroken I am to see the constant smears against Colin, a person who helped start the movement with only the very best of intentions. We are talking about a man who helped to orchestrate a commercial planeful of food and supplies for famine-stricken Somalia. A man who has invested his time and money into needy communities here at home. A man I am proud to call my brother, who should be celebrated for his courage to seek change on important issues. Instead, to this day, he is unemployed and portrayed as a radical un-American who wants to divide our country.

    Anybody who has a basic knowledge of football knows that his unemployment has nothing to do with his performance on the field. It’s a shame that the league has turned its back on a man who has done only good. I am aware that my involvement in this movement means that my career may face the same outcome as Colin’s. But to quote the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” And I choose not to betray those who are being oppressed.

    I have too often seen our efforts belittled with statements like “He should have listened to the officer,” after watching an unarmed black person get shot, or “There is no such thing as white privilege” and “Racism ended years ago.” We know that racism and white privilege are both very much alive today.

    And it’s disheartening and infuriating that President Trump has referred to us with slurs but the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., as “very fine people.” His remarks are a clear attempt to deepen the rift that we’ve tried so hard to mend.

    I am nevertheless encouraged to see my colleagues and other public figures respond to the president’s remarks with solidarity with us. It is paramount that we take control of the story behind our movement, which is that we seek equality for all Americans, no matter their race or gender.

    What we need now is numbers. Some people acknowledge the issues we face yet remain silent bystanders. Not only do we need more of our fellow black and brown Americans to stand with us, but also people of other races.

    I refuse to be one of those people who watches injustices yet does nothing. I want to be a man my children and children’s children can be proud of, someone who faced adversity and tried to make a positive impact on the world, a person who, 50 years from now, is remembered for standing for what was right, even though it was not the popular or easy choice.

  35. Thanks for your service. This current uproar is not about Free Speech. How could it be when the “free speech” has been acted out many times in the sight of millions of people. Who has been prevented from taking a knee? No One! Has the NFL tried or stopped anyone fro taking a knee? No!

    The NFL has many rules that govern the conduct of its players. It could at anytime add a rule covering taking a knee during the Anthem. It has not.
    Many people hate seeing this display . They also have a right to their comments and they have made them.
    The President has the absolute right to defend the honor of our country and he has done so.

    I find it telling that after all of these displays, discussions and rhetoric few people are aware of the point of the protest? The Progressives tell us that the point is that our country is rotten to thee core and all white people are Racist, Trump is a white supremacist, etc. Typical Progressive divisiveness.

    Free Speech is not the issue.

  36. This is great! I have a few active-duty nimrods who are super butthurt over the protests, threatening to unsupport the teams they’ve always supported (boohoo). This guy sets them straight.

  37. Thank you Dr. Corey. This should be required reading for every U.S. White Evangelical following Trump’s rage-filled, nationalist, xenophobic gospel.

  38. Again, in such a short time Ben, amen!!!

    Love, Herm, Vietnam vet 1966 – I owe it to all who died in our war, too many beside me, instead of me, to take a knee in respect to what they thought they were fighting for; continued freedom to fight at home, in peaceful demonstration, for a better nation that truly honors our Declaration of Independence that we all hold these truths to be self-evident, that all women, men and children of mankind are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – Jim Crow laws were still being enforced in 1965.

  39. Thank you for your service,your honesty,your opinions,your view of life that stems from your view of Abba,and thanks for helping me personally in my journey of deconstruction and renewal. You are a good man,Benjamin Corey!

  40. The oldest page in the propaganda Playbook is pivoting. POTUS and Company are amateurish at this game so we can call them out on their Shenanigans thank God! His base supporters are as reprehensible as he is in my humble opinion! I don’t believe anything he says and I never shall.

  41. Ben, as a fellow retiree (Army) I totally agree with you. I gave most of my adult life, and as my son is doing for us now, to preserve the rights of all Americans. Thank you for your service, and thank you for this post.

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