A mistake creates a column

By Jeff Smith

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I wasn’t planning to write about this but it’s going to bother me if I don’t. I made a typo in the column “Reasons people aren’t watching football.” Unfortunately, one little error can often change the entire meaning of a sentence. I apologize for that and any other mistakes that have happened recently.

Someone wrote a letter to the editor about the statement “soldiers aren’t the ones who fight for our freedom of speech.” That is untrue and it is my belief that a large reason why those in the Armed Forces fight is to protect our freedoms.

Marie Tillman, the wife of Pat Tillman who was an NFL player who gave up his Arizona Cardinals contract to serve the United States in the wake of the 9/11 attacks says that the very action of self expression and the freedom to speak from one’s heart – no matter those views – is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for.   

I don’t often express a lot of my views on things going on in the news. In fact, it’s sometimes weird writing these columns because I’m not a very outspoken person in general. My personal philosophy is to keep your head down and carry on. But if it wasn’t for a lot of people in the past who haven’t stood up when they see injustices no one would know about it. Any history book is full of people like this. Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman and Martin Niemöller are just a few.

We shouldn’t have to fight so hard for some things. We live in a society where we can have thoughtful discussion even with people that we don’t agree with. We don’t do that too often though. As Proverbs 18:15 says “wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.”

People are not going to different news channels or trying to seek out worldviews different from their own anymore. A quote I love and try to live by is “I don’t agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Everyone has the right to say what they want and write what they want unless it is terribly inflammatory.   

In my football column I also accidentally broke one of the unspoken rules of journalism — never say anything bad about about veterans. I don’t think veterans should have been dragged into the kneeling debate in the first place but I don’t want to digress from the topic of this column.

I have written a lot about veterans and their experiences during my short time as a journalist. I am not trying to be self-congratulatory or defend myself but I just want to make sure that I care about veterans and their sacrifices.

Supporting the veterans is one of the few things left we have that unites us. We need to continue to be creative in ways we show love to our troops. I don’t think we should just think about veterans or other Armed Forces men and women during Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day.

That is why I thought it was neat to do a story on Mission 22 in the middle of summer for the Prevailer. Mission 22 raises awareness about veterans suicide. Since 9/11, the percentage of veterans who commit suicide has gone up 35 percent. Mission 22 has many resources available for veterans so if you know someone struggling with this Mission 22 is there to help. If you’re wondering what the 22 is about, that is the average number of veterans who commit suicide each day.

When I was in Nebraska I often volunteered to do a story about an Honor Flight ride. The Honor Flight was where local veterans were able to fly to Washington D.C. with their spouses for no charge. They came to our town to have lunch and there was usually entertainment at the local VFW hall. I liked doing the story because one, there were some great pictures and two, it was important for me to be there to hear their stories and give them recognition. Veterans aren’t in the mainstream news all that often anymore. Most local newspapers do a good job at publishing veterans’ stories, but the lack of stories on veterans is noticeable. Also, TV shows and movies about veterans almost always show a glamorized version of the military. I don’t think they truly capture what those in the military struggle with and have limited knowledge about the military.

I try to stay unbiased in most instances. The kneeling debate is something that continues to baffle me. I’m thankful that I live in a country where we don’t have to stand for the National Anthem.

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