Let's get this out of the way.
A column on national anthem etiquette isn't plowing fresh ground.
The first grumbles came in Rio de Janeiro, when a U.S. athlete or two didn't put their hand over their heart -- or didn't pay attention on the podium. Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49ers quarterback, started taking a knee during "The Star-Spangled Banner" before games. An increasing number athletes have followed suit.
They probably didn't experience what Virgil Wahlman did. He left his family behind to be a member of the military intelligence division in Europe during World War II. And there's Steve Anderson of Milford has served in the Army National Guard and served overseas in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The late Marvin Sorum was a World War II veteran who served more than 20 years and logged over 3,400 hours flying C47, C46, B25, C45 and C54 aircraft.
Melvin Kuhse was a prisoner of war and is no longer with us. Mr. Kuhse joined the Army before Pearl Harbor and was in an artillery detachment stationed at Corregidor Island, a small rocky island in the Philippines.
In May of 1942, he was captured and endured the Bataan Death March. For three-and-a-half years, he was forced to work in a coal mine on the island of Formosa. His family said the only thing he ever mentioned about his experience was that he saw many of his fellow soldiers killed or starved while in captivity. Some of the men in the mines simply could not bear it any longer. They just laid down and died.
World War II veteran Aubrey La Foy shares his stories to this day. He spent 33 days on a troop ship traveling to Australia and eventually India. Four soldiers were confined to a single room -- roughly 7,000 people to a ship. Once they arrived in India they hopped on a train for a week-long trip across the country. When La Foy was in the medics ward, he drove a truck from China to India on the 1,500-mile Burma Road -- through the thick jungle and the Himalaya Mountains.
The veterans who are no longer with us deserve their eternal peace. The ones who are still with us deserve to take a knee anywhere they want -- during any song they hear.
The late Jack Bedell deserved to take a knee. We lost him earlier this year. As a high school senior, he was already enlisted to serve his country in the United States Air Corps. He went overseas as a pilot, where he flew "the Hump," which required him to navigate portions of the Himalayan Mountains from India to Burma and China during World War II.
Many of the stories mentioned here come from the newspaper archives because the veterans agreed to be speakers at Memorial Day and Veterans Day services. They are, or were, members of their V.F.W. and American Legion posts in the area.
Others were mentioned by their fellow servicemen, including the late Harry M. Yarnes, who spent 23 months in a concentration camp -- the local POW was captured by a Belgian farmer with a pitchfork. The farmer apologized to Yarnes by saying "I have to turn you in or the Nazis will kill my family."
Bill Baker of Spirit Lake was called Panama, Belgium, England, Luxembourg and France and did his best to make sure the sacrifice wasn't lost to time. He put together a POW Honor Roll Bulletin Board for Dickinson County at John W. Kidd VFW Post 4514 in Spirit Lake.
Colin Kaepernick sees the world in a different way than we do here in rural northwest Iowa. And, the servicemen mentioned here most certainly fought for the quarterback's right to protest. But to do it during the national anthem? After so much has been lost? We'll let Mr. Baker have the last word.
"I don't think the common citizen appreciates what we have," he said in 2012. "Until you've been overseas and been to a third-world country you don't have any idea what's going on. We live in an isolated world -- a beautiful part of the world -- but we have a lot of privileges that people take for granted."