President Donald Trump sent a Twitter message on Thursday, Jan. 4, containing an emotional photo of a military widow and her newborn son lying on a blanket at the Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego.
“So beautiful…” the president wrote. “Show this picture to the NFL players who still kneel!”
In the photo, Jenn Budenz lays on a custom-printed blanket with her 2-month-old son AJ and looks at the headstone of her husband, Major Andrew Budenz, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The photo was taken in May of 2014 when Budenz was visiting her husband’s grave every day, 6ABC reported. Her husband died in a motorcycle accident in September that year, despite surviving three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. She was 12 weeks pregnant at the time, reported the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Twitter user Corey Jones tweeted the below photo that Trump then retweeted to his 46 million followers.
— CoreyJones🇺🇸 (@CoreyLMJones) September 16, 2017
Trump began criticizing NFL players for kneeling during the performance of the national anthem months ago. Trump said at a rally that players who kneel should be fired, sparking weeks of media frenzy surrounding the protests.
The NFL’s decision to largely side with the players on the issue despite Trump’s firm stance against it appears to have significantly hurt NFL television ratings and stadium attendance. Scores of players still regularly kneel when The Star Spangled Banner is performed before football games.
“At least 24 players kneeling this weekend at NFL stadiums that are now having a very hard time filling up. The American public is fed up with the disrespect the NFL is paying to our Country, our Flag and our National Anthem,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Nov. 28. “Weak and out of control!”
Maj. Budenz was assigned to the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The squadron is also known as “Raiders.” The Raiders have been in existence since 1945 and served in every war since.
Budenz served in Iraq in 2008 and in Afghanistan in 2010. He graduated from San Diego State University in 2003.
The cemetery where Budenz is buried is on the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station flight path.
“This is the place I feel him the most,” said Jenn Budenz told San Diego Tribune. “His buddies fly over us every day.”
“It’s therapy for me to be here with him,” Budenz said. “It’s peaceful, and now I have my own little family here.”