Gold Star Mom thanks football player who stood alone to honor America

Lance Corporal Daniels

Lance Corporal Daniels

By Todd Starnes

My column about the college football player who stood alone to honor the national anthem while his teammates hid in their locker room really struck a chord with readers.

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I've been inundated with hundreds of emails and messages from across the fruited plain -- all affirming their support of Connor Brewer, a football player at Millikin University. 

The football team had decided to stay inside the field house until the national anthem had concluded - a form of protest against Lord knows what.

But Connor chose to do the right thing -- the patriotic thing. 

I was especially touched by a poignant letter I received from a Gold Star mother - Debi Daniels. 

"Reading your article about Connor broke my heart," she wrote. "It was the loneliness -- that he had to be there by himself."

She asked to me reach out to Connor and I did.

"Please thank him for me," she said. "He has a lot of support."

And based on your well-wishes and words of encouragement, it's clear to me that this young man who stood alone on the gridiron stands alone no more. 

Mrs. Daniels said the recent controversy at Millikin University hit close to home for her family.

That's because her son Nickolas was a member of the varsity football program at Millikin back in 2004. He played offense and defense - one heck of an athlete. 

In 2010 Nickolas enlisted in the Marines. The following year he was killed in Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Daniels was a decorated Marine - awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbons, a National Defense Service Medal, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

So you can understand why Mrs. Daniels has taken an interest in recent developments at the school.

"While I have stayed silent about this 'movement' this struck a tad close to home," she told me.

The Daniels family told me they understand the protests - but they "just think there is another way."

There's a reason we stand for the national anthem and we place our hand over our heart and pledge allegiance to the flag.

It's to honor men and women who shed blood so that we might be free. It's to remember that our freedom comes with a price. 

So when athletes take a knee -- they don't just disrespect the American flag -- they disrespect American heroes -- like Lance Corporal Nickolas Daniels of Elmwood Park, Illinois.

Todd Starnes