Local military veterans love the Huskers as much as anyone. But not all of them love the idea of Nebraska players taking a knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“Everybody I’ve talked to kind of resents what’s happening here,” said Peter Jennings, 77, of Omaha, a Navy veteran. “I think 98 percent of military veterans would feel the same.”
Jennings meets with a group of veterans every Monday for coffee. He said the Husker flag protests were a topic of conversation this week.
Iraq War veteran Chris Berggren, 31, of Lincoln is a former Marine who fought in the brutal 2004 battle of Fallujah. He has mixed feelings about the protests.
“I agree, we do have a race problem. With the political election, a lot of closet racists are coming out,” he said. “On the other hand, I don’t know if that’s the right medium. I could never sit down during the national anthem.”
But Berggren is truly incensed over the ferocious reaction, including death threats, that the players have received.
“I’m shaking right now,” he said. “As a Nebraskan, as an American, I’m really embarrassed that people said these things to these kids.”
Terry Minarik, 68, of Omaha earned two Purple Hearts as an Army infantryman in Vietnam.
“People have certain rights to do things,” he said. “But from my perspective — the national anthem, I stop and salute.”
Gov. Pete Ricketts called the players’ actions “disgraceful and disrespectful” during his monthly radio call-in show.
Dena Yllescas-Johnston, a Gold Star wife from Aurora, praised Ricketts, saying he is defending those who fought for freedom.
Yllescas-Johnston’s husband, Army Capt. Rob Yllescas, died in 2008 after suffering wounds in Afghanistan. She is now married to a police officer.
She said the players’ decisions to kneel during the national anthem “just absolutely deflated me.” She sounded off in a post on Facebook. Someone sent her note to Ricketts.
“When I look at the American flag, I see it draped over my husband’s casket,” Yllescas-Johnston said in an interview. “I just wish these people had a better way to protest their feelings.”
Kneeling during the anthem, she said, insinuates that “my (deceased) husband who died for our country was racist” and that her current husband is engaged in police brutality.
“Neither is true,” she said.