Eric Greitens, the current Governor of Missouri and former Navy SEAL, issued a strong statement on Facebook about why Americans should stand for the American flag.
The Facebook post has since gone viral with nearly 20,000 engagements and more than 4,000 shares as of Thursday afternoon.
Asked why he felt compelled to write the post, Greitens told American Military News: “Real patriots rise for the flag. The military gives you a unique perspective on the meaning and importance of things like the flag, the national anthem, and even the word patriotism. People should be proud to be patriotic – and if these thoughts connect with some people, then it’s because we’ve said things they were already feeling.”
After graduating from the University of Oxford in 2000, Greitens attended the Naval Officer Candidate School in January 2001 and graduated from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training in February 2002. He deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and Southeast Asia, and was a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy Reserve.
Greitens is a recipient of the Combat Action Ribbon, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and several other military awards.
After returning home from Iraq, Greitens started “The Mission Continues,” an organization that challenges “veterans to serve and lead in communities across America” by participating in volunteer organizations all across the country.
In 2013, TIME Magazine named Greitens one of the 100 most influential people in the world and in 2014, Fortune Magazine named Greitens one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.
“The flag brings real patriots to their feet, not their knees,” Greitens wrote in the viral Facebook post.
Greitens listed several examples of why Americans should respect the American flag and not kneel when it is presented.
This is Greitens’ statement in its entirety:
“The flag brings real patriots to their feet, not their knees.
In the military, every one of us wore the American flag. In fact, it’s one of the only common features of all military uniforms. You could be in a different branch, have a different rank, wear different awards—but all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines wore the stars and stripes.
You didn’t just wear it every day. One of the first things they teach you in the military is how to salute. It’s a precise, practiced movement, and it is governed by a set of rules. You practice your salute over and over again until you get it right. And believe me, your drill instructors make sure you get it right. Why? Because, as we were taught, the salute is how members of the military show their respect to each other—and it is also how we pay respect to the flag.
Even today, out of uniform, my body reacts by instinct when I see the flag. Eyes front. Heels together. Toes apart. Back straight. Arms at my side. Watch a crowd the next time a flag is raised or brought out in a parade. You can pick out—straight away—the people who served in the military. They’ll be standing at attention.
The US military honors the flag in other ways, too. There are units in the service called Honor Guards: their job is protect the flag, to bring it to funerals, to make sure it is cared for and folded in accordance with our rules. Being selected for one of these units is a high honor.
At night, on US bases around the world, the flag is lowered with care, folded 13 times, and placed under watch. It is unfolded with devotion early each morning and raised aloft. That too is a sacred duty.
From the moment a slain American service member is placed inside a casket, a flag covers them. When the body is set to be lowered into the ground, that flag is folded, and given to the family of the fallen—a symbol of our country’s devotion to them and their loved one’s devotion to our country.
These are some of the most important rituals in the military, as vital as any of our drills or the maintenance of our equipment. In the service, we gave the flag its proper respect.
When the flag is raised, we stand as Americans. We stand because America represents a promise that is larger than all of us. When people refuse to stand for the flag, they make that moment about them. It’s a shame that some people would use our country’s greatest symbol of selfless service for a selfish act.
We’ll always have differences as a country, but the flag deserves reverence from all of us, no matter our disagreements. That’s what I was taught, and it’s what I will teach my children. God bless the United States, our servicemen and servicewomen, and our flag.”
Last month, President Donald Trump called out professional football players who protest during the national anthem, either by kneeling or sitting when the anthem is played before football games.
“We are proud of our country. We respect our flag,” Trump had said. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘get that son of a bi–h off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired!'”
Some NFL teams and players responded by criticizing Trump’s comments and choosing to either kneel or not take part in the national anthem in the weeks that followed.
Earlier this week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a memo to all 32 NFL team owners that he believes everyone should be standing for the national anthem.
“Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem,” Goodell said. “It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us.”