By Jeff Wagner

COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) — The American flag and the song that celebrates it have special meaning to the people who swore to protect them.

“You get chills and I’m proud,” said Army veteran Mikee Pratt when asked how he feels when the Star Spangled Banner is played.

“After being in Vietnam and seeing a lot of my comrades fall, when they play the national anthem it’s a little teary eyed for me,” said Vietnam War Veteran Randy Koski.

Those emotions now include irritation after NFL players across the country took a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice in the U.S.

“It’s a sign of disrespect,” said Pratt.

“When the national anthem is played, everybody should stand,” added Koski.

Bruce VanBeusekon is the Commander of VFW Post 9625 in Coon Rapids, where Pratt and Koski were enjoying an afternoon drink. He disagrees with players kneeling during the anthem but added, “It’s a freedom of speech issue, actually. They certainly have every right to (kneel).”

VanBeusekon along with Pratt and Koski feel other news stories, like Hurricane Maria relief for Puerto Rico or North Korea, deserve more of the spotlight.

When asked about President Donald Trump’s comments on the protesters, in which he called them a profanity and suggested they be fired, Pratt was about as irritated as the player’s kneeling.

“(President Trump) should have kept his mouth shut. If he would have said nothing none of this would have come about. Leave it up to the NFL to take care of their own kind,” Pratt said.

“I don’t think Donald Trump should have anything to do with that,” added Koski.

VanBeusekon feels Trump could have expressed his opinion in a better manner. However, he acknowledged that the president and all Americans are allowed to speak their minds.

“I guess that’s one of the things that we all fought for was the right for people to express their freedom of speech rights,” he said.

The Minnesota Vikings players locked arms during the national anthem Sunday instead of kneeling, which VanBeusekon thought was a classier way for protesters to get their message across.

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