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In “Why the NFL Player Protests Still Matter,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote, “Trying to discourage freedom of expression actually insults veterans by diminishing their sacrifice.”

As a Vietnam veteran, I agree. I view the act of attacking those that take a knee to protest racial oppression the same as I would someone spitting on me.

When I was commissioned an officer at Fort Benning, I took an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution — not the flag, nor the national anthem, nor the president. This lifelong oath obligates me to defend the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of expression.

Most of my time in the Army was in a Special Forces group whose unit crest contains the phrase “De Oppresso Liber” — free the oppressed. It does not say protect the rich and powerful.

When I was with the 10th Special Forces Group, the colonel would finish our weekly 5-mile run in a gym with the song “Ballad of the Green Berets.” The song was written and sung by Special Forces SSgt. Barry Sadler. The ending lyrics are: “Back at home a young wife waits. Her Green Beret has met his fate. He has died for those oppressed. Leaving her this last request. Put silver wings on my son’s chest. Make him one of America’s best. He’ll be a man they’ll test one day. Have him win the Green Beret.”

Having worn the Green Beret, I consider supporting those that take a knee a test of upholding the officer’s oath and the Special Forces crest.

Paul Appell

Altona, Illinois

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