Military men say they fight for freedom of expression

Canadian servicemen discuss their thoughts on athlete protests during U.S. national anthem.

By Mike Moore

Two Canadian soldiers, who would take a bullet for their flag, have no problem with civilians taking a knee to fight injustice.

Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee during the American national anthem has put civil rights back on the main stage.

The act of sitting or kneeling during the American national anthem caught on like wildfire as many athletes joined the silent protest.

President Donald Trump attacked the league and the players for their actions.

Marshall Strowbridge is currently enlisted as an able seaman with Canadian navy.

“Being ordered to (stand) by the leader of a nation, in my eyes is the opposite of freedom,” said Strowbridge, who is enlisted at the Naval Fleet School Pacific in Esquimalt on Vancouver Island.

“In my personal opinion it isn’t disrespectful,” he said. “They’re exercising their free right to (protest) which is what soldiers fought for. They fought and died so we could be free and have the freedom to choose.”

Protests during the national anthem are becoming more prominent in the United States. For many, it’s a matter of freedom of expression. Mike Moore/Kicker

Bill Foote, a retired sergeant from the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves, agrees the protest shouldn’t be viewed as a sign of disrespect. The men and women who are enlisted in the armed forces, he said, fight for the right of freedom of speech and expression.

Officially, he said, Canadian soldiers fight for king, queen or country. The reality, he said, is different.

“We do that to give the people, the common person, the civilians, freedom,” said Foote. “So my stance, it was and always will be, is that people have the right to express themselves in whatever way they want.”

Strowbridge admits there are moments during national anthems which annoy him such as people talking, joking and being “asses” while it’s being played.

“If you choose to stand, have the respect to shut up for two minutes,” he said. “Even if you don’t stand, have the respect to also shut up just out of respect for those who are standing. That’s just a personal respect thing in my opinion, not a ‘you disrespected veterans’ deal.”

Strowbridge says it’s not about flags or anthems.

“Everybody is free to think and have whatever opinions they want,” Strowbridge said. “The kneeling isn’t a direct target to the flag and those that protected it. To me it just shows they’ve lost faith in those that lead their country and one of the fundamental symbols of a country is the anthem and flag.”

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