Respect the national anthem | Guest View

By Michael Reagan | Oct 06, 2017

Most people know I am a Marine Vietnam combat veteran.

They also know that for the last 14 years, I have been the artist for the fallen hero portrait project. What they may not know is, in addition to the portraits, I make Gold Star families a promise. I promise to support and protect them and their loss anytime it becomes necessary, and to Never Forget.

Until last Sunday, Sept. 24, I hadn’t needed to really protect them. Now I need to speak up. That Sunday was supposed to be Gold Star Mothers Day across the country.

We were supposed to honor, remember and acknowledge the incredible sacrifice they and their families have made for our freedom and way of life. If it had happened it would have also let all the other Gold Star family members around the country know we all care.

It didn’t happen.

Instead some NFL players and owners decided to, in my opinion, disrespect the anthem and, by extension, the flag these Gold Star loved ones died for. Flags that each of those families have in their homes, folded after being removed from the coffins of their lost loved ones.

Let me be clear, I love the Seahawks and have been an artist working with them for over 40 years. These are good people, and I can’t believe if they had known it was Gold Star Moms Day they would have done what they did.

But they didn’t know because no one cared to check it out. Now that it’s blown up, everyone is telling us they aren’t really disrespecting the military or the flag by kneeling or just not showing up. I don’t really know.

But it looks a great deal like disrespect to me.

I believe there is a discussion that needs to be made about the players’ concerns. But I also believe using the anthem and flag are the wrong way to do it. I fought for that flag. My friends died for that flag.

I held two of my friends in my arms as they died in Vietnam on March 28, 1967, and their blood is still on my hands.

One of them, Vinny Santaniello, last words were, “I just want to go home.” So this is very important to me. So I have a request of the players and their supporters to their concerns, me being one of those.

Find a different way to get your concerns recognized. A lot of us see this as your disrespect for us, the fallen from all wars, and the Gold Star families who have given more then they should already.

Now that you know that, what will you do?

Michael G. Reagan, who lives in Edmonds, is an artist and president of the Michael G. Reagan Portrait Foundation. His website is


Comments (1)
Posted by: Nathaniel R Brown | Oct 12, 2017 04:59

Mr. Reagan, I salute and honor you, your service, and your project, as well as the service of all those you mention.  I never served: I was rejected by my draft board on physical grounds, but everyone else in my family has served, for generations: in the Civil War (both sides), WWI, WWII.  In the Second World War my father was in strategic manufacturing (landing barges), but even my aunts served, and one of them was part of the group who opened the Belsen concentration camp.  Happily, the last death was in the Civil War.  And while it is not service, I have represented the United States at three Olympics and numerous World Championships, and been deeply moved to hear our anthem and see our flag.

But I would like to ask what that flag and that anthem standf or, and I would like to ask you what you and others are bravely defending, if not the right of Americans to freedom of speech, or the freedom to demonstrate against injustice?  This is what our Founders did, to present us with our country’s marvelous potential, and they did it at the risk of their lives, branded by the government (British) and its supporters as traitors.  My many-greats grandfather actually arrested his father at the start of the Revolution!

You write, “A lot of us see this as your disrespect for us, the fallen from all wars, and the Gold Star families who have given more then they should already.”  Well, a lot of us see it as vital freedom, always somewhat messy, but clearly well and at work in the America you ably defended.  And some of us see the growth of an attitude that would deny the right and the legitimacy of such demonstrations as disrespect to our hard-won American freedom.

You ask, “Now that you know that, what will you do?”  Well, I’ll feel genuine sorrow at the discomfort of those who see kneeling (a position of prayer, by the way) as disrespectful.  I’ll continue to thank you and the fallen for your service and sacrifice, but I will also continue to believe that demonstrating against discrimination, racism and violence is a foundational, sacred right of free Americans.  The Constitution does not guarantee that we will never be offended; it does guarantee that we cannot be silenced.  I’d like to think that that is what my family – and you - have always fought for.

Thanks you for your service and passion for remembering our fallen.

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