Perspective: My first pair of Nikes

In the hot summer of 1992, when I wasn’t running in my Navy-issued boondockers, I was running in my first pair of Nikes. They looked a lot like the ones in this picture. They were handed to me by another recruit as I walked in a line of freshly bald kids at the Navy’s basic training in Orlando, Florida.

Every one of the members of my 90-person company had a pair and our 180 feet would circumnavigate the square mile asphalt parking lot we called the grinder in them daily, running physical training as well as practicing our marching. If the grinder is still there, that asphalt has bits of my skin and blood embedded in it with the sweat, blood and tears of 1000s of other men and women who joined for their own personal reasons but ultimately, learned to espouse the following characteristics: Honor, Courage, Commitment.

My company was a team of men and women. One of the Navy’s first experiments in creating gender-integrated boot camp companies. We competed against four other totally male companies for different honors throughout the weeks of basic training and we performed better academically and physically across the board. We earned top honors as a company in that class and I attribute it to our combined talents and skills as men and women working together. We were a more cohesive team than the other companies.

I had those Nikes for a long time. They were just shoes handed to me to make me the same as everyone else in my company; making us uniform. They were part of the stripping of my previous identity as a civilian. A wide-eyed high school grad who was torn down to nothing and then rebuilt into a serviceman of integrity and dedication.

They were part of the physical foundation for the mental renovation that occurred over the weeks of intense work we all went through there.

I haven’t really thought much about those shoes until recently as many people have fallen into a faux rage over a company picking an image for an ad campaign. They’re just shoes.

Meanwhile, I drove down to Evansville recently and saw a man’s face emblazoned on the flag of the United States. This is true desecration. Where is your outrage at this?

Veterans did not fight for a pair of shoes or a company’s choices for an ad campaign. As a veteran, I am not offended by this.

Veterans fought and served to defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The flag is representative of that union of states (13 stripes and 50 stars) who have agreed upon and believe in the ideals set forth by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The flag is protected as that image of unity. It is not to be desecrated.

Another thing that is protected is the right to protest your government without fearing for your life. We started a revolution because of the oppression of a king and country that would not hear our grievances.

Anyone that loses their livelihood or something they love invoking the first of their protected rights is committed to their cause. We can disagree with him or her and how they go about their protest but I like to think that the Bill of Rights is written in somewhat of an order of importance from our founders’ point of view. Free speech, personal religion and protesting are all among the items protected first in this document. Our founders knew that the freedom to be heard was among the most important to ensure all the other freedoms.

We should not take action to silence any protester, we should reach across to understand them in unity under the protections offered by our country’s hard-fought rights. Hard fought for by the mixture of men and women of different ethnicities, races and religions who volunteered to serve their country in a uniform. Who put on a pair of shoes that first day in boot camp and offered their identities to be torn away and rebuilt for the good of a country’s people.

All people.

Just like my boot camp company overcame our male-dominated colleagues as a mixture of black, white and brown men and women, our country is only made stronger by its diversity.

Embrace it. Espouse it.

10 Comments

  1. If your an American, “IF” your an American and refuse to stand and Honor our Flag, Anthem, Country and them who fought for your rights. Then the only rights you have left is to leave our Great Nation or keep your communist mouth shut. This is just a statement not pointed at the person who wrote the article. Thank God I was never in the navy.

  2. It seems like a lot of gibberish in this article, and I struggle to see the point. Nike has taken a political stance in their ad campaign. Its not that they are altruistic, they have simply calculated they will move more product if they divide.

    If the author truly cared about diversity, he would understand that people are genuinely offended by kneeling for the anthem. If the author were truly concerned about diversity, he would advocate a neutral viepoint where ads selling shoes were actually about shoes.

  3. I was in the Navy. I am an American. It just seems rude to not respect a blood soaked flag regardless of the right you have to kneel. We have all been mistreated at some point intentional or not. Who actually is the minority group today? Get out and vote, that’s where majority wins!!!
    Please don’t shame the US Flag. Nike is using it to sell shoes, that’s shameful.

  4. Mr. Crane is correct. I served to defend the rights for free speech. I also served for the right to express my free speech by not buying any Nike product or NFL product. I appreciate Nike’s position but have never purchased any of their overpriced products ever. In fact I have never paid to attend a game or owned any NFL merchandise. I haven’t watched an NFL game in 5 years. That is how I and many other Americans express our free speech and you can bet the NFL and Nike have taken notice.

    Now the behind the scenes look. Nike like President Trump receive a lot of free publicity for swimming against public opinion. This is cheap advertising for Nike and Trump everyday says something to keep the eye on him. Colin Kaepernick is not sacrificing anything. He has been on Nike’s payroll the whole time. Sure he could have been making more money on an NFL roster but he chooses to keep selling that false narrative about white cops targeting blacks and killing them more than white suspects. That myth is been debunked by the DOJ and Harvard University studies. But there is money to be made in rewriting history these days.

    Daryl Hensley, Jasper IN

  5. I believe in the Bill of Rights. However it is not legal to yell ” FIRE ! ” in a crowded movie theater if there is none. I believe in the amendments too. Protest @ Halftime by not watching the next “Wardrobe Malfunction” , Shower or Pep-Talk ! Geeeeeeez ! Think of wearing slippers while making Millions. Too many vets are homeless.

  6. @T McBeth, KMA! Not all Sailors have the same “opinion” as the person who wrote this fiction piece (no sources listed to back up the claims stated as fact) but to make a statement disrespecting any branch of the service shows a very simple mind. I too was a sailor as was my grandfather (served in WWII), and my uncle. There has been someone in my family in every branch of our military. We always gave each other a hard time but never once did we ever show disrespect. Thank you for your service.

    1. Don’t really know what you are questioning in my op-ed but here is an article about the Navy incorporating gender-integrated companies in 1992 in basic training. I was not in either of the two companies in the article as I joined in July but I stand by my statement that we out-performed our brother companies. http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1992-04-04/news/9204040201_1_seaman-recruit-training-boot-camp I can also show you a 1995 study conducted by the U.S. Navy that found better teamwork and cohesiveness in those gender-integrated companies. If you are wondering about my service, I can show you my DD214.

    2. In this old video you can see the shoes I am speaking of at the 1:21 mark in the video and then later you see recruits marching in PT gear wearing dark blue tennis shoes. They also appear at the 2:37 mark. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu-E9bbJBVY The 2:37 section on shows a gender-integrated company so that would be Orlando RTC because that was the only RTC to have gender-integrated companies.

  7. @Matthew, Thanks for your response. Nice to see some sources, almost unheard of by today’s journalistic standards. I too went to Orlando for boot (1974/1975) and not surprised that that was where such a study was performed. Thank you for your service.

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