Gold Star Father: "Our Flag and Those Who Defend Her Are Not Divisible."

posted on November 11, 2016

Jim Hogan is the co-founder of the San Clemente Marine Corps Support Group (SCMCSG). He and his wife, Carla, formed the organization after their son, U.S. Marine L/Cpl. Donald Hogan was killed by a roadside bomb while his unit was on foot patrol in southwest Afghanistan’s Helmand province, near the Pakistani border. The group’s goal is to honor Donald Hogan’s memory and to give back to the Marines and the Corps that he loved so much, and make sure the forward deployed troops have the supplies they need to accomplish the mission. 

Mr. Hogan was recently compelled to pen this letter to NRA Publications Executive Director Doug Hamlin, in which he candidly and poignantly addresses the controversy surrounding the behavior of some athletes during the playing of the national anthem at sporting events. (Top image: U.S. Dept. of Defense; images below courtesy the author.)

"There has been a lot of discussion regarding Colin Kaepernick’s “Take a Knee” protest recently. There seems to be some deep divisions on both sides of the question, with some calling him a “hero” and others a “traitor.”

We live in a free society and our Constitution grants us the right to peaceful protest. Mr. Kaepernick states, according to Wikipedia, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." Following a huge uproar, he has modified his position to “taking a knee” instead of sitting, in an attempt to show more respect for the military. Because of the First Amendment, he is within his rights to voice his opinion. 

I would like to share mine.

My father was a 3-war marine. He joined the Marine Corps in 1942 following the attack on Pearl Harbor when he was 17 years old. He retired in 1967 leaving a career that took him to some of the most violent fights in the Pacific, Korea and Vietnam. To say that I was taught respect for the flag and what it stood for would be an understatement. Once at a high school football game, I was goofing off during the national anthem and it earned me a sharp rap to the head. I never repeated that behavior. Since that time I have always paid honors to our flag, standing at attention, putting my hand over my heart, etc. However as I grew older, married and focused on raising a family, my father’s lessons and the meaning behind them seemed to fade.

That changed on August 26, 2009.

While I never followed my father’s example by serving in the military, my son did. In 2008, against my wife’s and my wishes, he joined the Marine Corps. He chose the infantry and was deployed to Afghanistan. On that fateful day in August of 2009 while on a patrol that he volunteered to run the minesweeper on, he spotted an insurgent pulling a kite string to trigger an improvised explosive device. Rather than run, he chose to push one Marine out of the way and stood between the rest of his patrol and the device, taking the brunt of the explosion with his body. While the rest of the patrol was wounded, my son was the only death that day.

At his funeral, following the 21 gun salute, we were presented a folded American Flag by a Marine Colonel, along with the “thanks of a grateful nation.” 

Not long after, a Marine sent us a precious gift. It was some photos of our son during boot camp. Some of them raised a chuckle, but one caused me to stop. It was a photo of my son, saluting during the final test in his training, the crucible. It is the moment on the parade deck where they cease to be recruits and are from that point on, Marines. I asked the sender what the occasion was, and I was told it was taken when they were playing the national anthem.

In a society where sound bites and reality TV are more important than substance, many of our citizens have forgotten that our flag has been the banner that brave Americans of every race and creed have served under in every war our Nation has fought in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Those men and women, through their sacrifice, have established a basic pact that most Nations, though it seems not our population, understand today. That pact is simple: “Harm those who live under my protection and there will be a reckoning through the wrath of those who serve under my banner.” It is here that the fatal flaw to Mr. Kaepernick’s “take a knee protest” is shown.

Our flag and those who defend her are not divisible. By disrespecting one, you disrespect the other.

I find the “take a knee” protest a weak and tepid response to what Mr. Kaepernick perceives as a “critical issue” in America. To my mind, it is the same as someone putting a yellow ribbon magnet on their car and saying that they support the troops, but fail to keep politicians accountable for things like shrinking military budgets, unclear rules of engagement and failure to keep our Nation’s promises to our veterans for their care and education following their service.

I would suggest to those of our citizens following Mr. Kaepernick’s example that they should be cautious. While his protest has been enabled by freedoms paid for by the blood of better men than himself, there are those who welcome you to “take a knee” because their intent is that in the future, kneeling would be a requirement instead of an option.  ... their intent is that in the future, kneeling would be a requirement instead of an option.

Change comes only from action, not inaction. Through our Nation’s history, this has been borne out by the men and women who have chosen to wear their Nation’s cloth. Our Nation has always been protected by men and women, who like my son, thought that our Nation was worth fighting for and as a result they “rallied ‘round the Flag” at times of dire need. It is my fervent hope that they continue to do so, ensuring that long after Mr. Kaepernick’s protest is forgotten, our Flag will continue flying proudly over our Nation."

To learn more about the ongoing fundraising efforts, resources and support initiatives undertaken by SCMCSG, including Socks For Heroes, which collects funds for the purpose of purchasing socks for troops, please visit To date they have donated more than 400,000 pairs of socks to deployed military personnel. 

Additional Reading:
7 Things To Know About Socks For Heroes  


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