Members of a veterans group in Monmouth will be reciting the pledge of allegiance and playing a recording of the national anthem before a selectmen meeting Wednesday night in response to athletes around the country who have knelt during the anthem or skipped it to protest police brutality.

The group, American Legion Post 204, is inviting veterans and citizens to join them for the program in the Monmouth Town Office at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, which will precede a 6 p.m. meeting of the Select Board.

“We feel the national anthem and our flag has been shown disrespect,” said Hugh LeMaster, a member of the American Legion Post who came up with the idea. “We want to reaffirm that there are people (for whom) that’s not something you discriminate against or protest against or condemn. (The flag is) not for one certain person, place or creed.”

LeMaster, who served in the Marines while the U.S. was not engaged in any wars, said he has found the demonstrations disrespectful in part because he has multiple family members and other acquaintances who served in the armed forces. That includes a son who fought in Iraq, an uncle who fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II and another uncle who served as a combat medic in the Korean War. And LeMaster’s wife has an uncle who died in the early days of Korean War, he said.

The spark for the current protests against police violence by athletes came in early 2016, when Colin Kaepernick, then a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, chose to sit on the bench during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” A couple games later, he and another player, Eric Reid, began kneeling during the anthem, deciding that was a more respectful way to make their statement.

They made that decision in part based on the input of Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, Reid said in a recent opinion piece for the New York Times.

“We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture,” Reid wrote. “I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.”

The protests have mushroomed in recent weeks, after President Donald Trump condemned any football player who “disrespects our flag.” That led many other athletes to make similar protests in both the NFL and at the high school level.

In his opinion piece, Reid expressed bafflement “that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.”

While LeMaster agrees with veterans who have said that the athletes have a right to make their protests, he also said that their demonstrations are “illogical,” given the nation’s values. LeMaster also said that he has spoken to other veterans who are distressed by the recent wave of activism.

“I was talking to a Vietnam vet, and he had a really hard time with the disrespect that’s being shown, and his wife had to calm him,” LeMaster said.

The event on Tuesday may also include a reading of the history of the pledge of the allegiance.

“It’s not going to be a very lengthy program,” LeMaster said. “It’s meant to be a display of patriotism in a local, small, central Maine community. We feel it’s necessary to do that at this time.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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