Love of country and sacrifice. It’s what most of the warriors at the Adaptive Training Foundation in Dallas, a gym that empowers people with physical disabilities, have in common. Brian Aft, a former Marine who relies on a wheelchair to get around was wounded in Afghanistan.
“I triggered an IED, Improvised Explosive Device, which severed both my legs," said Aft.
Lately, talk of anthem protests by NFL players has dominated the conversation here and prompted a video they’re calling, “Dear Flag.”
The video shows a group of wounded veterans speaking directly to the American flag.
The group, which also includes some civilians, insists the video is not political, but a love letter to Old Glory, meant to unite.
“People are really just starting to hate each other over this silly nonsense. People just need to chill out,” Aft said.
Blake Watson, also a former Marine who was wounded in combat sees it a bit differently.
“At first there was some anger, but take a second and try to see their side of the story. It makes sense. I get it,” Watson said.
When asked if it feels disrespectful to the military, Aft said, “Well, it's disrespectful to the entire country in general. Not just the military. That flag represents everyone in this country.”
"I joined the military to defend this country. I took an oath and that oath says, 'I will defend all Americans and their rights' and one of your rights is you can stand or not stand for the national anthem,” Watson said.
Chauncey Jenkins is a quadruple amputee. He isn’t a veteran, a blood clotting condition took his limbs. As an African American, he says he understands why players are taking a knee but says the next step is for the nation to unite.
“I think it's causing a bunch of division amongst us, black, white, Hispanic, whatever the case, that's really not important. I respect the flag.” "We can say, 'Hey guys, we don't have to kneel. Rather than upset our military and fellow Americans with the kneeling, those who are offended, we can move on toward some type of solution."
These men say in the video that they, too have felt disrespected.
“Flag, I know what it's like to be marginalized, to feel insignificant. I know what it's like to be the outsider, to feel like the world wasn't designed for you."
Their hope is to put the hurt aside and to listen.
"Just like I have my views, you have your views. Let's find a way to coexist in this world together not be so mad and angry at each other,” Watson said.
Aft is hopeful there will be a solution, through gratitude.
“You shouldn't take for granted how great this country is that we live in.”