Stars, stripes, and pride in the USA: A message from a Marine

"Whether in Cuba or Hong Kong, they're all holding the American flag because the stars and stripes are the symbol of hope and freedom," Kistner said.

Republican Tyler Kistner talks with a voter on the campaign trail. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Kistner for Congress)

As we celebrate our independence, we’re experiencing a rare moment of unity as we bemoan the direction of the country.

We’re spending so much on gas and groceries we should have defibrillators at the checkout counters. But, come November, we have a chance to do something about it, at both the local and national level.

All eight of Minnesota’s congressional representatives are on the ballot. In the 2nd Congressional District, which includes much of the southern metro, we’ll have a rematch of the 2020 election, in which Democrat Angie Craig narrowly defeated Republican Tyler Kistner.

It’s a race to watch.

Kistner graduated from college when our country was reeling from the 2008 recession. Newly married, he had no money and no clear career prospects. But he was drawn to adventure and taught to put others before self.

In 2010, he was commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps, where he spent most of his nine-year commitment as a member of an elite Special Operations Forces unit.

While deployed overseas, he dealt with counterterrorism; engaged with ambassadors, generals, and foreign dignitaries; worked with a multi-million-dollar budget; and ran multiple programs in several countries simultaneously.

As a liaison to Congress, he learned about issues and policies. He was frustrated by how both parties often put more emphasis on pushing narratives than addressing issues.

In January 2020, with no experience in politics, he announced his candidacy against Angie Craig. The race was so close he’s stepped forward again with a call to action: Send in the Marine.

He describes himself as a servant leader who is trained to listen and solve problems.

It’s the same issue, whether you’re a special operator in the military or a business owner: how can you best be a resource to those you’re trying to help achieve economic prosperity, he says.

“Three years ago, we had the greatest economy in the history of the United States. But disastrous policies have destroyed it.”

As a husband and father of two young children, he appreciates the struggles of voters who tell him they can’t save for a mortgage or for their children’s futures. They’re having to stretch to put food on the table and gas in their vehicles.

He’s also deeply concerned about fentanyl, the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18-45. Cheap and deadly, fentanyl flows freely through our porous southern border.

It’s a threat to national security as well as to the sanctity and prosperity of our nation, he says.

The ironies are rich.

Our government is incentivizing people to enter our country illegally, rather than legally.

Every military base where Kistner served had a wall to protect it.

Our leaders have failed to address the problem, he says. “The American people see who is in power and what they’re doing with it and that’s why they’re saying we need change.”

In the military he learned about access, placement, and influence. It’s an approach he’d use as a congressman.

“It’s about actually having conversations; creating relationships with individuals where you create a network instead of being one who continues to make noise.”

We need to get back to being civil; to engaging in conversations; and to be willing to open our minds and listen to each other, regardless of party affiliation, he says, noting even fellow Republicans don’t agree on every issue.

As a Marine, he fought for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. “Though we’re 50 states, we’re unified by our Constitution and a pride in wanting to uphold the values that the United States shows to the rest of the world.”

While he’s as frustrated as other Americans, his military service offered a valuable perspective.

“When you see riots, protests, or rebellions around the world, they’re always holding the American flag to signify they want more liberty, more freedom, and a greater future for their children. Whether in Cuba or Hong Kong, they’re all holding the American flag because the stars and stripes are the symbol of hope and freedom.”

He wants to help make America proud again.

“I’m willing to stand up and put my family, my name, and my future prosperity on the line so my children, your children, and future generations can continue to strive to be that beacon of hope; to continue to build back to where we were; and to show the rest of the world that this is what it looks like to have pride in your fellow neighbor and countryman; and how working together can make you the strongest country in the world.”


Caryn Sullivan
 | Website

A retired attorney and author of the award-winning memoir, "Bitter or Better: Grappling With Life on the Op-Ed Page," Caryn Sullivan has inspired readers with her thoughtful commentary for the past two decades. To learn more about Caryn’s work or to connect, visit