This Sunday, it was 11 years since two Marines showed up at our door to tell us that my husband’s first child, my stepson and our two children’s brother, Lance Cpl. Christopher B. Cosgrove III, 23, was killed by a suicide bomber at a checkpoint in Iraq. He should have been out of Iraq but he volunteered to stay behind to train the new Marines coming to replace them. Christopher left behind his mother, father, stepmother and stepfather, his brothers and his fiancee.
I watched as they informed my husband that his son, the love of his life, died in the line of duty. I watched the strong man I married be reduced to a puddle of tears. When I sat our children on the couch to tell them that Christopher was gone, I watched as my previously carefree 13 year-old son curled into a ball and began sobbing as if I just punched him in the stomach, and I had to look at my innocent 9 year-old son and answer his question, “Why didn’t Christopher shot the bad guy first?”
Several days later, we had the privilege of attending his “dignified transfer” at Dover Air Force Base. I’m sure you have seen it depicted on television or in the movies. Viewing it reduces most people to tears. To actually experience it is indescribable. The gut-wrenching, raw emotion of the experience is not anything an individual can prepare themselves for. The sound of “Amazing Grace” as you walk behind the casket, the sound of the 21 gun salute, the playing of “Taps” and the presentation of the flag at his graveside cannot be described because there are no words that can ever appropriately describe any of those moments. Looking up and seeing the Patriot Guard Riders lining the street to the church and the cemetery is breath-taking. However, in the end, the family goes home to live with the grief and loss for the rest of their lives.
Christopher loved his life. He loved being a Marine and he loved this wonderful country. He lit up a room when he walked into it. His laugh was infectious. Instead of watching football today, we decorated his Memorial Tree with orange lights and pumpkins for Halloween, which will be replaced by red, white and blue lights at Christmas time. We no longer watch the NFL. They’re not worth our time.
I ask all of you taking a knee: Do ALL black lives matter or just some? Because if they do, why do you only protest the black lives lost as a result of police action? Michael Brown was a thug. Trayvon Martin was a thug. Anthony Lamar Smith was a heroin dealer. How many lives he destroyed in the black community will forever be unknown. Did any of you show up at the trial of MS-13 gang members who killed three innocent black teenagers and seriously wounded a fourth in a school yard in Newark in 2007 to comfort the families or any of the other trials of defendants who killed innocent children? Did you ever show up at any of the marches against violence by preachers and parents who have lost children that are held in the inner cities around this country?
Do you care about the 506 people who have been killed in Chicago this year alone, and the 751 killed last year? Did the Chicago Bears go out en masse to support those families? Have any of you taken the millions of dollars you make playing a game and establish scholarships to private schools for inner city youth who are desperate for a way out of their current circumstances with a mother or father working several part-time jobs because their one full-time job was eliminated by Obamacare requirements? Have any of you engaged in anti-gang violence programs in the inner cities you live closest to? Gangs claim more black lives than police ever could or will.
Did any of you take a knee when your fellow NFL player Aaron Hernandez lured a young black man to a desolate place before he executed him because he didn’t trust him? If you did, I must have missed it. Did that black life not matter because he was taken by one of your own? What about his other victims? Did their lives not matter either?
What about Cpl. Montrell Jackson assassinated in Baton Rouge? Did his black life not matter? What about his infant son who will grow up without his father because of the actions of followers of BLM? What about the five Dallas Police Officers killed by a sniper? Did they deserve to die because they were protecting the BLM marchers rallying against them? Did Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu deserve to be ambushed in N.Y. after BLM marched in the street chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!” Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot. I guess “blue” lives don’t matter to members of the NFL, except to their credit, the Dallas Cowboys.
I will not begin to presume how Christopher would feel about what the NFL is doing now by disrespecting the national anthem and the country for which he sacrificed his life. I can only share how I feel.
I watched 8-year-old children emulating you as they took a knee as the national anthem played. Do you know that the tradition of playing the national anthem began in 1862, during the Civil War? Do those 8-year-olds know that the man they are disrespecting our flag and country for was a heroin dealer who fled the police in a high-speed chase? Whether you believe there was a gun or not, a gun was recovered in the vehicle. Do they know that, or are you teaching them that all cops lie? Did his coach portray him to them as an innocent black man randomly shot by the police or was he honest with them? What do you think?
I know what Christopher’s death did to our family. I know what the families of all those innocent children in Chicago and around the country are going through, because we have been there. I know what it is to wake up every day having lost a part of your family and knowing that your life will never be the same.
So while you are busy taking a knee, ask yourselves: Do all Black Lives Matter? Or only the black lives killed by police officers trying to protect the very same community from the crime that surrounds them, frequently committed by the very individuals who are killed by the police?
Here’s my suggestion for all of you. You should be on your knees thanking God for giving you the talent to play a game thousands of young men would give their right arm to be talented enough to play at the professional level. Thank God for the ability to make more money in a single game than many of those police officers protecting you and your communities will make in a lifetime. Thank God for having been blessed to have been born in a country that gives you that opportunity for the sole reason that you are a gifted athlete. Most of all, thank God for men like my stepson who fought in 120 degree heat in full military gear and died to defend your ability to live freely in this country. Then get off your damn knees. Stand for the American flag and national anthem that represents the country and those who have died defending her to give you this opportunity, and DO something to prove that black lives actually DO matter to you. Put your money where your knee is.
Get engaged in the inner-city communities around you. Act as a role model and mentor to these kids. Set up your own scholarship funds at decent schools. Take a ride-along with those officers you are protesting and see what they face every day as they do their best to protect ALL lives. Take a “Shoot, don’t shoot” class and see how difficult it is for officers to make that split-second decision, knowing that if they are wrong they will either die or go to jail. Meet with the families of children killed in random drive-by shootings and support them instead of those committing the crimes. Get to know some police officers and actually talk with them and, more importantly, listen to what they have to say. Support anti-gang initiatives.
As for me, once an avid football fan on every level, I haven’t watched you play since Kaepernick started this protest last year. I’ll watch college games, which are more fun anyway. If college students start participating in these protests, I can easily live without football. Your privileged, self-important, hypocritical attitudes disgust me and millions of other patriotic Americans. I owe it to Christopher and every other fallen soldier and veteran to stand up against your blatant disrespect of our country, our flag, our anthem, our military, and our police officers.
Eileen Cosgrove, of New Providence, N.J., is a retired attorney and author of “The Fighting Hawks at D-Day” and “The Fighting Hawks at Pearl Harbor,” a time-travel adventure series for children 8 and up, so they can learn and understand the sacrifices made by our military over the years.