by April Scheinoha
Veteran John Cervantes shared his take on the national anthem protests at a Veterans Day program Thursday, Nov. 9 at Lincoln High School in Thief River Falls.
Cervantes is a retired sergeant first class who served in the Army National Guard for 24 years. He enlisted in the National Guard as a high school junior. Stateside, he helped with flood fights in 1997, 2001 and 2008. Cervantes was deployed for a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2003. Two years later, he began a 16-month deployment in Iraq.
Cervantes spoke about the national anthem and what it means to veterans. “Can you believe these people are protesting our national anthem?” he asked. “I wonder how people can even protest this song.”
Cervantes noted that protesters say they are protesting the national anthem due to repression, police brutality, the criminal justice system or the third verse of the anthem.
“If you look back to the War of 1812 and particularly the Battle of Baltimore, you will realize that Francis Scott Key’s thoughts became a poem, a song, a flag, our national anthem, and had absolutely nothing to do with today’s protest,” he said.
Cervantes wondered whether the protesters were protesting Key’s negotiated release of an American prisoner, Key’s thoughts on Sept. 14, 1814, or the five million signatures on a Veterans of Foreign Wars petition that led “The Star-Spangled Banner” to become the national anthem in 1930.
“No matter how I look at it, I realize that none of these protests have anything to do with our anthem but merely show disrespect to our veterans, their families and our country,” Cervantes said.
Cervantes cited U.S. code, which stipulates that all people, including those in uniform, should stand at attention when the national anthem is sung and the U.S. flag is displayed. When only the anthem is sung, they are to face toward the music and act as if the flag were displayed.
Cervantes noted that nearly everyone is related to a veteran or knows one. “If it’s one thing we veterans hold value in, it’s our flag. It symbolizes sacrifice, freedom, our nation, not to mention Remington Arms, Ford trucks and apple pie. Folks have been wounded both physically and mentally, and have even been killed protecting this flag and what it represents,” he said.
With that in mind, Cervantes encouraged protesters to protest the issue at hand, not the national anthem.