Many heroes are remembered for what they did: Running into burning buildings. Protecting others. Storming enemy beaches.
Colin Kaepernick, on the other hand, is becoming known for what he won’t do: Stand for the national anthem and respect the American flag.
In the name of racial justice, Kaepernick and now dozens of other professional players have shown their disdainfor the stars and stripes… but they can learn a lot from how America’s first black man to earn the Medal of Honor treated the flag.
William H. Carney deserves to be a household name. Unlike the millionaire Kaepernick, he was born into slavery two decades before the Civil War.
After gaining his freedom by escaping to the north, Carney could have laid low. He might have been able to hide out in Canada, or “sit out” the war in many other ways. Instead, he stepped up and joined the Union forces as a volunteer sergeant.
As a black man fighting under the American flag, Carney knew what it represented: A chance to dream and build a better life.
He would end up nearly giving his life and earning the nation’s highest honor by refusing to let the flag fall into disrespect, even while a deadly battle raged around him.
“On July 18, 1863, 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment soldiers led the charge on Fort Wagner. During the battle, the color guard, John Wall, was struck by a fatal bullet. He staggered and was about to drop the flag when Carney saw him,” explained the States News Service.
That bloody charge against Fort Wagner, later immortalized in the movie “Glory,” was like a scene out of hell. In the chaos of battle, men fell on the left and right of Carney — and he watched as the solider holding the flag died in front of his eyes.
“Carney seized the flag, and held it high despite fierce fighting, inspiring the other soldiers. He was wounded twice — in his leg and right arm — and bled heavily,” continued States News.
“Although the Army sergeant could hardly crawl, he clutched the flag until he finally reached the walls of Fort Wagner. He planted ‘Old Glory’ in the sand and held it tightly until he was rescued, nearly lifeless from blood loss.”
Now a casualty of war himself, Carney finally handed off the banner to another soldier with a message that has reverberated throughout history. “Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground!”
For his brave actions, Carney received the Medal of Honor, and his pledge to never let the American flag touch the ground became a rallying cry for the American military and lovers of freedom everywhere.
What people like Kaepernick don’t get — but real heroes like Carney deeply understood — is that symbols like the American flag and the national anthem represent powerful ideals.
They are more than just fabric or music notes. They are icons of human liberty and achievement even in the face of pessimism and opposition.
Carney knew true oppression that today’s spoiled NFL protesters can barely imagine. He was born into a country that still saw him as less than a person.
Despite slavery, war, and deep racism, Carney and many other black soldiers made the choice to fight for the American flag to advance the ideals it represented.
Nobody ever said that America was perfect — either in 1863 or today. There are problems to fix. There are wrongs to make right. Carney knew that the greatest banner of his time for improving man’s standing was the American flag, and he bled on the battlefield in defense of that ideal.
A football field is no Civil War battlefield, and the NFL’s self-centered players know nothing of true sacrifice. If they took a moment to stop posturing for the cameras, they might learn a few things about great black Americans who fought for the same flag they now insult.
Please press “Share on Facebook” if you think William H. Carney is a more important name than Colin “Benched” Kaepernick.
How should Americans respond to the NFL’s disrespect? Scroll down to comment below!