O! say can you see by the dawn's early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming.

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.

And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

To answer that last question… Yes it does. Our beautiful red, white and blue star-spangled banner does wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

We may at times not agree with everything in our great country. We may question policy and our government which creates those policies. Other times, we may throw our hands up in frustration due to others things like taxes and $4-a-gallon gasoline.

Still, we live in the greatest country on Earth. Make no mistake about it, there isn’t a greater country in the world.

This is a country where hard work, good living and honesty are still valued  and rewarded… where a man can come up from nothing and become something.

It’s a land where someone can be given an opportunity to earn a degree from a prestigious university like Wake Forest simply because of his ability to play basketball. This is also a country where that same guy can go on and become a multi-millionaire, again simply for playing basketball.

It’s because of those blessings afforded from this land of plenty that the Dallas Mavericks’ Josh Howard, and every other athlete paid in U.S. currency, should not only stand during the playing of our National Anthem, but also honor our great country by placing their right hand over their heart while the anthem is played. This applies to everyone, despite race or religion.

Recently, during a charity flag football game, Howard was captured by a cell phone video camera saying, "The Star-Spangled Banner is going on. I don’t even celebrate that (expletive). I’m black."

This is a country were freedom of speech and expression is a right, regardless of how recklessly it is displayed. However, Howard should realize how well he has it here as a professional athlete, even while our country is at war abroad. He should visit with troops in Iraq and Afganistan and get their views on being an American. Better yet, he should spend some time in those countries and visit with people who aren’t American and see how his pampered lifestyle would fit there. Our country may not be perfect, but for someone like Howard, who probably makes more money a year than some small companies, the United States of America should be honored and respected.

pete.garcia@aliceechonews.com