Billy Vaughn

On Sunday, over 200 NFL players protested during the national anthem. The spectacle of activism is the largest demonstration yet on the football field.

But September 24 wasn't just an ordinary day in the week, either. The date holds special significance as Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day. A Gold Star family is someone who lost their loved one in war.

So what do Gold Star families think about the protest? Independent Journal Review wanted an answer to that question.

We spoke to Billy Vaughn, father of Navy SEAL Aaron Carson Vaughn, about the protests.

Billy Vaughn/IJR

Billy's son was a member of SEAL Team Six and was killed after his helicopter was attacked in 2011, as the aircraft came under enemy fire.

Karen Vaughn/IJR
Karen Vaughn/IJR

Vaughn didn't hold anything back about what happened on Sunday.

"It was very disappointing to see. As they do these protests, they get all the publicity and the news. These guys don’t appreciate how good they have it. Our flag is a representative of us all, not just all of us who have died for it like my son and others.

There is always injustice in the world. Anywhere mankind is, injustice will happen. There were always be a few people who have different feelings about people with other ethnicities. But to embarrass our nation as these guys have, thank God that the American men and women who defend our country are not the same caliber as these overgrown, rich babies.

In no other country in the world would they be able to do what they do, get paid what they get paid, and have the freedom that they have in the United States."

Vaughn then made it clear that the NFL players involved probably didn't even know it was a special day, as they were so busy thinking about their protest. “They don’t owe me anything. My son made the sacrifice in my family. But here again, I don’t think they took any time to think about who they could be disrespecting. They don’t show respect for others,” he said.

The Gold Star dad told us what he would say to the NFL players who protested if he had a minute of their time:

"I would ask them: 'what is it about the flag and national anthem that has helped you achieved so much? What is the problem you have with it?' I would challenge them to look back through history and the things we’ve tried to make the country better. Look at the good we’ve done in the world. Look at the good we’ve strived to do for our people.

All they know is what someone with an agenda has pointed out to them with half-truths. I would urge them to make sure that the movement they're saying they are a part of really represents what they believe. Because a lot of people get caught up in things and then find out what it is about, only to realize they would have never been part of it had they had known."

Amidst all the protests, there was one NFL player Vaughn appreciated — Pittsburgh Steeler Alejandro Villanueva. Villanueva swept the headlines after being the only Steeler to come out and stand for the anthem on Sunday.

“I thought: there is a man right there other men and sons should aspire to be like. It’s harder for him to do than other guys to stand together and run down our country,” Vaughn said. “I suspect that a lot of people felt like he did but lacked the courage and fortitude to risk it all and stand up to do what he did. That’s the kind of men and women who make America what it is today.”

Mic drop.

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