This is why I stand

Published 10:25 am Tuesday, October 3, 2017

For whatever reason an individual or group chooses to make the world aware of their beliefs, that is certainly their right.

We, as citizens of the United States, are granted certain freedoms, to include speech. How we choose to voice our concerns, pro or con, is left up to each citizen.

I remember a portion of a speech delivered by actor Michael Douglas, portraying President Andrew Shepherd in the 1995 Hollywood movie – “The American President.” There, Shephard was speaking about an adversary in the U.S. Senate, by saying:

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’ You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”

The words from a movie script over 20 years ago ring so true today, especially with the most recent round of NFL players opting to take a knee while the National Anthem is being performed accompanied by the display of the U.S. Flag.

Do not count me among those who are chastising, mostly on Social Media, these professional athletes for choosing this particular platform to demonstrate their feelings for whatever reason. They can voice their opinions by whatever means they deem necessary. However, personally speaking, if I had something to get off my chest, kneeling during the most beautiful song ever penned while our nation’s flag waves above would not be my choice to show my distain for the establishment.

With that said, I’m choosing this particular platform – the weekly personal opinion column I’ve authored for nearly 30 years – to let the world know why I choose to stand motionless, with my right hand over my heart and my eyes glued to the red, white and blue cloth containing 50 stars and 13 stripes during the playing of the National Anthem.

I choose to stand for my late father, Ray Bryant, who left the farm fields of Northampton County in 1942 to train and later fight against the Germans in the famed Battle of the Bulge. Because of him, I’m free today to write these words in English and you are free to read them the same way.

I choose to stand for the late U.S. Army Sgt. Will McLawhorn of Conway, who was killed in battle on Dec. 12, 2010 while defending me and millions of others from the threat of terrorism as he proudly served his country in Afghanistan.

I choose to stand for the late Felton James Outland Sr. of Sunbury. As a Gunner’s Mate aboard the USS Indianapolis, Outland, only 19 at the time, was among the 317 survivors of that ship, which sank in the shark invested waters of the South Pacific after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. For those that may have forgotten your history, the USS Indianapolis, prior to its sinking, had just delivered a supply of Uranium-235 to an American air base on Tinian Island. There, the atomic bomb was assembled and later dropped on Hiroshima, thus bringing a hasty end to the war in the Pacific.

I choose to stand for Joe Dickerson of Murfreesboro. He stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, that infamous battle on June 6, 1944. Six months later, he also found himself fighting in another famous conflict known as The Battle of the Bulge. By the end of his military service, Dickerson had been awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and four Purple Hearts.

I choose to stand for Sgt. Major Johnnie Ray Farmer, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War who returned to his native Hertford County to instruct JROTC students and is currently a county commissioner.

I choose to stand for all of our local, state and national first responders….there to answer our calls for help 24/7/365.

But most importantly, I choose to stand because despite all of our nation’s imperfections, I believe the United States of America remains the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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