NFL Players take a knee on a day designated to remember, honor and cherish Gold Star Moms

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NFL Players take a knee on a day designated to remember, honor and cherish Gold Star Moms

NFL viewership is plummeting.  Although I’ve heard the league and others put forth any number of reasons from concussions to the games being blowouts (which other than the game in London was entirely disproved this weekend,) but anyone with a functioning brain knows it’s because the NFL used to be an oasis where you could relax and get away from the turmoil of the day.  Now, for better or worse (and I don’t know many arguing for the better) it’s all about how some are kneeling during the National Anthem.

I looked around my Facebook this morning and it seemed like darn near 100 percent of people are boycotting the league, even people who I know are lifelong fans of a certain 5 time Super Bowl Champion team.  They're tired of seeing people making millions of dollars taking a knee during our national anthem when we still have men and women fighting overseas.  I’ll admit I still watch Football, but I won’t watch ESPN anymore because on the rare occasion they discuss sports they usually have hot takes that make no sense and seem to have been made for just drawing attention.

Let me start with one thing that I keep reading which is inarguably false.  The protest of the National Anthem has absolutely nothing to do with the First Amendment.  “Congress shall make no law….abridging the Freedom of Speech.”  People kneeling has nothing to do with that, as Congress has taken no position on it.  If anything it is employer/employee law.  “Free Speech” seems to be a catchall nowadays, but that really isn’t what this is.  The players kneeling are doing it to draw attention to an issue that they think is underappreciated.  You turning the TV off is your right.  And it’s a right that hundreds and thousands are engaging in. 

Rassmussen did a recent survey on the issue, and the league didn’t appreciate the findings:

While the NFL attributes the decline in ratings to the presidential race, a study conducted by Rasmussen Reports shows otherwise. Approximately 1,000 American adults participated in a telephone questionnaire on Oct. 2-3 that revealed nearly one-third (32 percent) are “less likely to watch an NFL game” due to players taking a stand and protesting the national anthem. Thirteen percent want to watch a game because of the protests. Fifty-two percent do not base their viewing choice on the protests at all. But the league executives disagree.

“There is no evidence that concern over player protests during the national anthem is having any material impact on our ratings. In fact, our own data shows that perception of the NFL and its players is actually up in 2016,” the executives wrote in the memo.

Well, now that the election is over, I assume the NFL has rebounded and is as strong a brand as ever, right?  Well, no.

Multibillion-dollar media and entertainment conglomerate, the National Football League, has a new problem on its hands: lowered ratings. Week 1 of the new 2017-2018 season has found the popular U.S. professional sport losing its ranking as the number one spot in households across the country. According to Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser, viewership for the NFL was down 14% on a year-over-year basis.

That’s the lowest level of same-week viewing since 2009.

Against this backdrop, President Trump advised people upset to start boycotting the NFL.  In turn, the NFL players in numbers which dwarf any previous demonstrations took to their knees in discontent.

Safe to say it was a debacle.  I actually watched as Patriots faithful, those of us who went through the lean years where winning 6 games was a Herculean feat, actually BOOED the players who took a knee.  (See below for a former Patriots great who deemed taking a knee as shameful.)

To be honest, it wasn’t so much the protest yesterday that bothered me, it was the fact that it happened on Gold Star Mothers Day.

Each year I visit the grave of a young man from Lovettsville, Virginia named Stephan.  Here’s a video that talks about the last minutes of his life.  It’s long, but stick with it, and hear about Stephan Mace.  (Fast forward to 6 minutes 10 seconds if you are short on time.)

Mace’s Mom is a Facebook friend of mine.  Alas, I’ve never actually met her, but she always comments on pictures of my young family, and I always feel joy when she does.  I know she lost her son, and I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that must cause.  And so when she goes out of her way to comment on my sons or daughter, it just makes me well up with tears.   Every single time.  That someone who gave so much would be interested in my family is humbling.

Imagine getting that visit to your door, or seeing those press releases.  Like this one:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of nine soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died of wounds suffered when their outpost was attacked by small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades from enemy forces in Wanat, Afghanistan, on July 13, 2008. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy.

Killed were:  […]

Private First Class Sergio S. Abad, 21, of Morganfield, Kentucky

I never met Sergio, but I know some guys who did, including two Medal of Honor recipients.  He was raised by his Aunt Sol, a beautiful woman who is also a Facebook friend of mine.  Any every now and again when Sol has a tough day, she Facebooks me and asks me to post a video of my daughter just to bring her some measure of happiness.  She may not be a relative, but Sergio was my brother, and if she asks for a video of my daughter, she will get one, even if I have to wake her up, tickle her feet or ply her with sugar, we’re getting that video.  Momma Sol could ask for my jeep and I’d hand her the keys.  Our nation owes her and Stephan’s Mom more than I could ever give.

And so it was really sad for me yesterday.  I don’t begrudge the players doing what they think is right, while I may (and vehemently do) disagree with the way they are doing it.  But to do it on (of all days) Gold Star Mothers Day made me sad right to my core.

But not everyone takes a knee.  You know, we value teamwork but at the same time we also must laud those who do the hard right over the easy wrong, even (or perhaps more so) when they do so alone.  And so, rather than focus on the players who kneeled, I want to single out one who didn’t.

First, from Yahoo:

Mike Tomlin, coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, said ahead of the team's game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon that his players would not come onto the field during the national anthem to avoid "playing politics" in divisive times.

That seems like a decent idea to be honest.  Having half your team standing and half kneeling doesn’t bring the country any closer together.  And I’m not a huge fan of not following a coach’s decision, or acting differently from the rest of the team.  Or, I should say I wasn’t, until this:

That is Offensive Tackle Alejandro Villanueva, and before he was a football player, he was an Army Ranger in Afghanistan, and a graduate of the USMA at West Point.  And once again, much like their motto, a Ranger Led the Way.  He walked out of the tunnel and sang the National Anthem as he has always done.

And bear in mind he wasn’t doing this as an anti-Kaepernick thing or anything of the sort, as he explained last year:

"I don't know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem with a country that's providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year ... when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year."

"I will be the first one to hold hands with Colin Kaepernick and do something about the way minorities are being treated in the United States, the injustice that is happening with police brutality, the justice system, inequalities in pay," Villanueva said. "You can't do it by looking away from the people that are trying to protect our freedom and our country."

Villanueva wasn’t alone either, Matt Light, former left tackle with the Patriots said he was ashamed at those who kneeled:

Light said he sat with a 91-year old veteran and the wife of a slain SEAL Team 6 member who was at her first NFL game.

“His wife had to sit at her first NFL game and watch what these men chose to do. Her husband died, gave his life up so that they could do that,” Light said. “That’s the reality that these so-called men don’t understand. Is it about their cause or is it about them? If it was about their cause, I could come up with a million different ways for them to really truly change things. If it’s about them, well … you see what happens. The collateral damage is widespread.

“They obviously didn’t think about anybody other than themselves.”

For my part, I will continue to watch the NFL and root for my team, because it’s the one distraction from life I can (usually) count on.  (Other than UMASS basketball which I love beyond all love, but whose losing ways are taking years off my life.)

And while I know that those who kneel don’t do so to disrespect Stephan Mace or Sergio Abad, it’s hard to remember that, especially on a day set aside for mothers who can never hold their sons or daughters again.

Updated: A buddy of mine served with Alejandro, and said he was huge and one of the nicest guys around.  

One quick addendum:  Vanessa Adelson, the mom of Stephan Mace had a post up about the entire thing yesterday that I wanted to share here as well:

So today we have had a lot of negativity about the NFL. Who cares? These people are insignificant in our lives. They don't teach our children how they should behave. That is your job. They don't make you less of a patriot.
That is your job to show America what being a patriot means. Most players do nothing to make this country better. INSIGNIFICANT. Not worthy of my attention.... This is what is worthy. Today is Gold Star Mother's Day. I have had people tag me today, telling me they are thinking of me. This is what I have to say...... GOD PROVIDES! Everyday is "mothers" day for me. I was given the gift of many new people in my life. Many that call me "mom". That is what is SIGNIFICANT in my life.

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The players and all apologist for the NFL always clams it is not about the Veterans but it is when they protest the National Anthem and the Flag they protest all who died and fought for it. The NFL is more upset about disrespect to its million dollar players then it is about disabled and dead Veterans. You may watch the NFL but I will not pay someone to disrespect the Dead.

Well said young man!!! This should go public and to all the NFL players and coaches; like Jerry Jones stated of his players, anyone of them who kneels will not be a part of his team; their contract will expire at that time.

Thanks Seavey.

Let's face it, it is in very bad taste, but they have the right. But we too have rights to not support such behavior. I propose a American Legion "Burn your NFL Gear Day" at posts nationwide. Make it a community event. Turn the games off in the post lounge.

The players and coaches do not have a right, other than what their employer grants them. The stadia are workplaces for the players and coaches and their conduct while in those workplaces is governed by the terms of their contracts, which include league rules. If you think I am mistaken about the nature of their rights, go to your workplace, tell the boss off or refuse to attend a meeting in protest of something or other and see what happens. You will be invited to the unemployment line while insisting it was your 1st A right to do what you did. You would be wrong, as are all of the constitutional geniuses who insist that the players and coaches are exercising their right of free speech.

The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.
During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.


These fans are cry babies who couldn't play football if their life depended on it mostly big fat and white out of shape slob veterans.

My father was a United States Marine. He loved football. He would be appalled that NFL players are
disrespecting our country by calling attention to themselves at a football game for a cause that has nothing to do with football. Shame on those who kneel. There are other ways to make a statement about the subject the kneelers are so upset about.

So long as Old Glory drapes the coffins of our Fallen and our deceased Veterans, there can be no adequate or satisfactory reason for kneeling while it is displayed during the playing of our National Anthem. None. Whatsoever.

I have given up on the NFL until they find a way to keep protests or whatever out of the game I love.

I am disgusted that the American Legion is attacking United States citizens for caring about the state of their nation. I will be cancelling my membership and discontinuing my involvement with this organization.

The players who kneel are doing so as an attempt to get this country to live up to the ideals we enlisted to serve. This protest has nothing whatsoever to do with veterans, despite what some moron chose to write on the internet. You pearl-clutching whiners ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

Bye, Felicia

This is all about free speech. Burning the american flag is protected.

A lifetime patriot and six-year Navy vet, I see no reason, under any circumstances to ever -- EVER -- disparage our flag. Unless we can be, first and foremost, proud American citizens, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, then we have truly lost everything that matters.

I played football in high school and I remember something very specific about "taking a knee." It was a time for rest and reflection. Remember that taking a knee is not sprawling on the ground. There is a certain amount of both physical effort and mental acuity and alertness aligned with taking a knee. Most emphatically, you are supposed to be paying attention to coach.

So some players take a knee during the playing of the national anthem and the reaction is outrage from some. Not most. Some. Some people feel that this is some kind of insult to our country, our values. But then you have to remember that these are talented football players, athletes who entertain us during the season, and have charities and otherwise benefit their communities in the offseason, with or without their teams. So maybe we should ask them why they choose this form of silent protest. Maybe you don't understand their perspective.

It turns out that a portion of this group of world class athletes (70% black) doesn't like what's happening in America. From their view, America isn't living up to its claims, its values. Is this the land of the free when there have been so many cases of people of color treated horribly by the police? Doesn't due process prohibit shooting an unarmed man? Maybe what's happening is that this group of players actually wants to make America great for everyone!

Reasonable Americans cannot be OK with the idea that police officers are 20 times more likely to use deadly force on a black person than on a white one. And if these protests shine light on this issue in a way that helps our police and society at large to address this problem, then these protests will have been a very good idea.

You are being lead down the wrong path here, sports and the NFL,NBA, Baseball
have nothing to do with your patriotism or disrespecting the flag, this was all
started to show racial inequality in all areas of this nation, some how Trump turned
this into a nationalistic anti-patriotic thing. I served this country to protect these peoples
right to protest. Would I burn an American Flag "NO" but I did serve so that anyone else
can protest in his or her own way. Was born an raised in the military, the day my day retired the
very next day I was sworn in. Question when did the National Antheim become the National Antheim,
when was the National Antheim put into the Constitution? When was the National Antheim first
played at a sporting event, and when did Congress make it a requirement that it be played at
all sporting events? The great Treasure of lives and blood was given so that "Peaceful Protests"
can happen without tearing this country apart.

Most NFL players were not even born when MLB decided to strike. Well to inform them, if they will research it, they will find that MLB has never recovered. They never will. They disrespected the loyal fans when they went on strike. The same thing is happening with the NFL. They are not only disrespecting the FLAG, MILITARY, AND ALL THEIR LOYAL FANS, they are disrespecting the COUNTRY, that gave them the freedoms that allows them to protest. The bottom line is: "They shot themselves in the FOOT"

As a retired serviceman of 27 years, I appreciate the players right to protest anything they see fit. But I find it disgusting and disgraceful that they choose to exercise that right through this particular means. The Flag and the Anthem represent much more than a race, a gender, or a political party. Its not a black thing or a white thing...its an American thing. I'm disappointed in these "role models" for sending that disgusting message to our children. Kids are now kneeling and stomping on flags. Their parents need some belt training, in my opinion.

When you buy tickets your contributing to their multi million dolor salaries and providing a venue for their protests, so we should all not go to their games or add to the TV revenue.

To ALL Veterans, past and present, you have paid a price, yes with low wage and mud and blood. We in military past and present would love to have received the millions these players get, not counting the advertisement endorsement. Our families lived and made due with what the military paid, and did so without protesting. Our children, lived PCS's, from school to school, without protest. We fought for each other, our families and our country, so that our way of life could be better. However, now in the sports arena, it is about "what have you done for me today". As John F. Kennedy, said "ask not what your country can do you, ask what you can do for your country"
God Bless America, hopefully we haven't forgotten God, or he forgets us.

I have two comments:
1. Russia is trolling Facebook, I wouldn't trust anything that I read on that site.
2. Can someone explain to me how veterans came to own the only meaning of The Flag of the United States of America?

Disagree, as retired army officer I say, the Military fights to support & defend the constitution period. All these other things are ideas selectively charished by groups or individuals. I don't know of any requirement for a private citizens to stand, honor or salute the flag. It's something most people do.

Y'all have every right to boycott the NFL, just as the players have every right to protest by kneeling. So don't watch and quit bitching! Because the protests will continue as long as innocent black men are being murdered by police. Pretty soon a peaceful protest is going to result in a not so peaceful protest!

It is very sad to see our NA has been disrespected.
Its a shame.

I encourage Legion, Amvets, VFW and associated member organizations to boycott the NFL for the Veterans Day weekend games. Both on TV and in the seats. I am certain NASCAR, its owners and employees would acknowledge our National Anthem properly for you TV viewers on Sunday, November 12. @brianbrinkman5

If you don't like the United States of America...LEAVE! We The People

I am a veteran, and although I was not in combat, I feel very strongly that people should not kneel during the National Anthem. We are american citizens, and we should respect out flag and the national anthem. Many men and women have sacrificed their lives for our country, and we should stand proudly for them.

Here's my response to Art Rooney.
Dear Mr. Rooney,
It's too late. You made your statement with your deeds. You can't turn back the clock and change the alinguistic narrative the team displayed on Sunday. I take umbrage at the disrespect you showed to me, the US Flag, and our Country. As a retired Veteran with over 28 years of service in the US Army and Air Force, I defended you with my life and the and all of the whining, millionaire babies associated with the NFL, which includes the players, coaches and owners; yet when you had the chance to stand up for our Nation, you acted as a coward and hid in the locker room until it was too late. Of course only one Steeler had the moral courage to do the right thing, my Brother-In-Arms, Alejandro Villanueva. I grew up in the Pittsburgh are and WAS a die-hard member of the Steeler's Nation, however the Steelers decided not reciprocate nationhood, but rather act in a most unprincipled and timid manner cowering in the shadows. It is astonishing that you are afraid to "offend" those who have never lifted a finger to defend our communities, but you are eager to offend me who spent the majority of my adult life wearing the uniform and carrying a rifle all over the world. Shame on you, the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
James D. Crosbie MSgt USAF Ret

IF you took an oath to a Flag or a song( calling for the killing of slaves), and Not to the Constitution of the United States. Then you are wrong. Every time we peacefully protest, it is wrong. Remember Rosa Parks, remember Montgomery bus protest, remember Jim Crow, Voting Rights, etc.. Do you really think we would be able to ride the bus, vote, get a quality education if we hadn't protested. My father served in WWII and came home to be call N**er, spit, called a boy and disrespected. So please get over yourselves and think about what the protest are really about. You may be tired of talking about RACISM, but I have to live it each and every day.

I am NOT a NFL fan but I am a VET. I will watch the first quarter of one game this weekend and make a point to boycott all the sponsors.

Great story of a bona fide hero! I salute Ranger Alejandro Villanueva for being a true patriot and a man of strong morals. I seem to recall that one of the "kneeling protests" was on a September 11 and now on Gold Star Mothers Day. It seems the NFL protesters have forgotten that thousands of black men and women and other minorities have given their lives for that flag and our freedom. I am disgusted by the NFL's lack of action. Last year when Kapernick began the juvenile behavior of kneeling during the national anthem, I promised myself that I would not watch any NFL game, pre or post-game show and I would not follow the NFL in any way whatsoever. A friend offered to share her season tickets with me for a Dolphins game and, as much as I wanted to go, I declined. The only NFL action (lack of!!!) I've noted since then is only about the continuing shameful behavior and lack of spine by the NFL executives, team owners, and coaches. As much as I miss the NFL I will continue my boycott until something appropriate is done. Yes, I know I am only one person and the NFL does not care whether or not I watch but I cannot, in good conscience watch the NFL. Semper fi!

I find people who wear the flag as clothing --- shirts, hats, skits, etc. -- much more disrespectful than Americans not standing for the National Anthem as a form of protest against injustice. The right to peacefully protest, protected by the First Amendment, is sacred. I do not agree with the method of this protest but I will not turn my back on fellow Americans who are peacefully protesting.

Well written article. Our Post just canceled the NFL Network on Direct TV citing the disrespect players are showing and Direct TV will even credit your account. If enough do it, the NFL will have to refund them.

I served 26 years defending their right to protest. Today's warriors continue to do so. Legion is once again way off base.

Well written article. Our Post just canceled the NFL Network on Direct TV citing the disrespect players are showing and Direct TV will even credit your account. If enough do it, the NFL will have to refund them.

I, and all of my brothers served in the military. And if I could demand one thing now, it would be that no one dishonor that service by speaking against a protest. People have fought, and yes - died, to give them that right. It is a beautiful thing to see someone protesting; knowing that elsewhere in the world they might be imprisoned or killed for doing so.
NO one - Colin Kaepernick or the others - was protesting the flag or the anthem. If even someone had been doing so, THAT IS THEIR RIGHT.
Any one who has served this country should be proud that a person feels that he can protest inequality.
And to say that someone who protests in that fashion should be fired is to say that an employed has the right to force me bow when he says I should, or pray when ordered to do so.
Leave it alone people, protest is a beautiful thing.

Well I know I'm in a minority but wouldn't shed a tear if the NFL went out of business; but can't help with the demise since I don't watch or attend games in the first place. I enjoy football and played pick up games with friends as a youth. And we live in a university town and occasionally watch a home game. I've just never been a fan of professional football. (I don't want to support what I consider an obscene and out of control salary structure.)

So with that caveat I must say the behavior of the protesting players and the lack of courage on the part of their coaches and team owners is really not OK. The comments on workplace behavior are spot on. The fact that these players' workplaces give them a national spotlight does not give them the right to go against league rules and common decency with impunity by foisting their political opinions and agenda on the public while they are on the job in their workplace. They need to be censured, fined, or maybe fired if the NFL wants to retain its credibility as a legitimate entertainment organization. If the teams will not do it (for fear of losing a good player to another team), the league must do it. Frankly my opinion is that anyone who continues to watch and support the NFL as long as it allows this behavior is condoning and supporting the bad behavior, regardless of their rationalization or love of the game. What do you truly love, our great and exceptional nation and those who have fought to keep it so or your leisure time entertainment?

If these players really care about a cause, let them call a news conference (and let it be known it's about their cause and not football), hire a hall (or stadium) and hold a fundraising rally, financially support an organization working on improving whatever it is that they are concerned about. Do it on their own time and with their own money, not while on the clock using their employers' resources (actually some would call what they are doing fraud or stealing).

After posting I do not see my answer, nor to another question so something wrong with this site?

My grandfather was 24 years old when he was killed during a mission on Attu Island during WW2. He was posthumously award the Silver Star. I'll bet he wouldn't have even considered "taking a knee" when his commanding officer sent him on the specific mission that took his life (and saved others).

Do you watch pro football to see football or tune in to watch the pregame and halftime shows? (I like amateur a lot better.) All of these shenanigans have nothing to do with football. Football, along with NBA, MLB, and most other pro sports, is already losing viewers. Do you know all of the people in "The Big Bang Theory" personally? If you disapprove of the actors' private lives, do you still watch their show? If you love Disney's animated movies, do you still buy their products, even if you know how mean they have sometimes been as a corporation?

I am boycotting the NFL; to be honest, even if the players and owners all apologize today and change their ways, I am not sure I can again support those disrespectful haters. The only thing they seem to worship is the all-mighty dollar. Very depressing and disappointing.

I don't know how Rasmussen did a phone survey on 2 and 3 October, it is still September where I live.

I served 4 years active duty in the Navy and 20 years as a reservist. Retired in 1993. My Son-in-Law is in the Ohio Guard and has served two tours of Iraq and one in Afghanistan. We are a military family. It saddens me when I see these NFL players disrespecting our Flag. They do not understand what it means. Lee Greenwood said it best in his song when he said "The Flag Stands for Freedom". I know some people can not stand for the National Anthem. I am 71 with balance issues. I still stand but it is getting harder, These NFL players are Athletes. I will no longer watch or go to NFL Games.

As a vet it do not take offense to the players taking a knee. I see it no different than when at a parade and the color guard goes by and everybody watching are still running their mouths and moving around. At least the players are attentive to the flag and national anthem. You even see some of them singing along with their hand over the heart. If you look at the people complaining it is the ones that have not served in the military. I do not see many vets putting them down.

Not watching TV will do nothing but lower your electric bill. 16 years ago all across our great land + the RED, WHITE & BLUE waved proudly for our Country, did you all forget how you felt then. The NFL has to grow some balls and add to the NFL Ruling of during the National Anthem, not only bench them. At most employment places your to leave your personal problems outside of work, these players and all others disrespecting our National Anthem and Flag need to be fired and made to work for the rest of contract at VA hospital's cleaning bed pans of those who have no knee's...

Let them donate 95% of the millions they don't deserve to the to charity that supports their "causes".

This is anything but 'disrespect for the flag'. I think folks that paint it as disrespect just can't face the issues. I see it as a signal of distress, akin to the national ensign flown upside down. We have a racial divide in America that is being swept under the rug. I didn't serve 21 years to defend a culture that turns a blind eye to racism. We are better than that, but we have to recognize the problem. I view those kneeling as showing the utmost respect for the flag that represents the loftiest of ideals, calling us all to a higher plane, to our better selves.

I don't see this an issue for the Legion to take a position on. Encourage discussion-yes, but stay out of the politics.

I believe in two things: ONE; You kneel before GOD! TWO; YOU stand for the National Anthem. I'm a 27yr veteran of the U.S.Army. I spent two years in SE Asia. When we came out of the jungle with two body bags to Siagon the first thing we saw was our National Colors(old glory).
Now I watch these NFL players [kneel] as the anthem is being sung? The NFL & AFL owners must mandate: EITHER STAND UP or you are not going to play!

Wonder how many black "Gold Star Moms" moms would be offended.... this thought frames the argument well.


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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.