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The Leaf Chronicle: Fort Campbell coaches, players hold national anthem sacred

The Leaf Chronicle

The Leaf Chronicle
Clarksville, TN | September 23, 2016

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — When Fort Campbell High running back Louie Regalado and quarterback Abdel Howard unwind on weekends, watching college football on Saturdays and NFL football on Sundays, they are witness to what the entire country has been witness to for weeks now.

Athletes from across the country have exercised their right to peacefully protest the ills that plague the country. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick touched off a firestorm of controversy when he first sat during the playing of the national anthem during the preseason. Then he began going down to one knee during the playing.

While that form of protest has spread across the country, at Fort Campbell, a military post, it's a difficult subject to talk about.

"I get it," Howard said after his 161 yards and three rushing touchdowns helped guide Fort Campbell to a 35-14 victory against Trigg County (Ky.) Friday night at Fryar Stadium. "I understand why they are protesting. We have some things that have to get better in our country. But at the same time, all of us here (at Fort Campbell) we're all military families. So that flag means a whole lot to us. We support it no matter what."

Almost to a person, the Falcons football team isn't sold on the idea of making a statement in that fashion.

"It's the flag," Regalado said, after running for 123 yards Friday. "Our families, our mothers and our fathers go overseas and they fight for that flag. We all understand the need to protest and it's not that we're against protesting but I would never do it while the national anthem is being played."

Falcons coach Josh McKillip, who grew up on Fort Campbell's post, played football under legendary coach Marshall Patterson and was a longtime assistant before taking over as head coach last year, hasn't had to have much of a discussion with his team. He said he has talked about it with his assistants but most on the Falcons' staff are in agreement that using the national anthem as a means to protest is shortsighted.

"For me personally, I would hope that whatever it is you are protesting that you understand exactly why you are doing so," McKillip said. "It shouldn't be a thing you do because someone else is doing it. I think we all understand why there is a need to speak out. I, personally, wouldn't do it this way."

Assistant coach Dedrick Carr is an active duty staff sergeant with the 101st Airborne. He's one of three African-American assistants on the Falcons' staff. He views the current protest movement as disrespectful.

"My feeling is, if you want to protest the national anthem, just stay in the locker room," Carr said. "It's not personal with me. It's a respect thing. You can protest all you want to, but do it in the locker room. Doing it in public is silly to me. It's silly."

While thousands of military veterans have voiced their support for athletes' freedom to protest in this way, Fort Campbell coaches made it clear that they support the right to protest in any way. They just don't agree with the method.

"Being a 20-year military veteran, the flag means a lot to me," Falcons assistant Henry Mitchell said. "There's other ways to protest rather using our nation's anthem or the flag. Here at Fort Campbell, we're kind of sensitive to that. We hold that sacred."

Mitchell is veteran of the Gulf War but retired several years ago as a Sergeant First Class.

"Everybody has the right to protest," he added. "But I don't condone the way they are doing it. There's other ways to do it."

 

Every player on the Falcons' squad has parents who are currently deployed overseas or have been deployed. Several players have parents who have died while fighting overseas.

"This is a military community," McKillip said. "We feel deeply about the men and women who serve and we're sensitive to the students and families who go through that stress on a daily basis. We know the rights our military upholds and we respect everyone's right. But we always honor our men and women in uniform and that means standing when that song is played."

Reach Prep writer George Robinson at 931-245-0747 and on Twitter @Cville_Sports. 


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