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97-year-old WWII vet takes a knee to support NFL players in viral photo. This is why he did it.

US
Image source: TheBlaze

John Middlemas, a 97-year-old farmer from Springfield, Missouri, told his grandson Brennan Gilmore that NFL players have every right to take a knee in protesting inequality in the United States.

"These people have every right to protest," Middlemas told his grandson before Gilmore snapped the photo — which has since gone viral — featuring his grandfather down on one knee.

Why does the vet support the movement?

Gilmore explained in a tweet featuring his grandfather on his knee that Middlemas — who served in the U.S. Navy for more than two decades — wanted to send a message of solidarity to those opposing the protests and to all Americans.

Gilmore's tweet read, "My grandpa is a 97 year-old WWII vet & Missouri farmer who wanted to join w/ those who #TakeaKnee: 'those kids have every right to protest.'"

Gilmore explained in an interview with CBS News that he, his grandfather, and their families engaged in a discussion about President Donald Trump's opinion that those players in the NFL who choose to protest by kneeling should be fired.

"We were having a discussion about it and you know, the idea that people were pointing to disrespecting military servicemen as justification for these comments," Gilmore told CBS News on Monday. "[My grandfather] wanted to send a message of solidarity to them."

Gilmore said that after the family discussion about the protests, his grandfather walked outside, bent down on one knee, and posed for a photo. Gilmore then offered to share the image on Twitter.

Public response

Gilmore told CBS that the support his family received on social media over Middlemas' photo simply "resonated" with people.

The photo was liked over 400,000 times and retweeted nearly 200,000 times at the time of this writing.

"I think a World War II veteran has the moral authority to speak more than basically anyone about what our veterans fought for," Gilmore said. "And I think [the photo] really resonated with people."

Gilmore added, "The issue isn't about disrespecting the symbol of the flag and the anthem, but the core issues and values that those symbols represent, free speech and the effort to try to be the best country — the country my grandpa and others fought for."

In Middlemas' own words

Middlemas, in an interview with the Springfield News-Leader, said that he wanted to convey a message of peace and acceptance by posing for the photo and had raised his children with desire to be "like Jesus" as they grew.

"I wanted to communicate what I always told to my grandkids and everybody else," Middlemas said. "When they'd go to bed at night, we'd tell the kids we wanted to be like Jesus.

"I'm trying to say that you have to love everybody," he added. "We don't kill people. We want to make people live."

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