A local Vietnam veteran is speaking out in defense of protests going on during the National Anthem at professional football games.

Lee Gaines told First Coast News he served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970.

“It was the worst time of my life,” Gaines said, looking back at photos from Vietnam.

As the National Anthem protests spread across the NFL, so does one of the primary arguments in opposition: the perceived disrespect for the American Flag and American service members.

Gaines feels differently.

“I don’t think people kneeling is disrespecting the flag," he said. "They’ve got a right to do that. I wanted to be clear that my fighting during combat was [for] everyone to peaceful protest, according to the First Amendment.”

In fact, Gaines said his comrades died fighting for that right.

“People who peacefully protest should have the right and shouldn’t be vilified," he said. "And should be condemned.”

If anything, Gaines said the display from the Jacksonville Jaguars made him a bigger fan.

“Because of the win!” he said, laughing. “And because they are standing up for what they believe in and that’s what I fought for.”