FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. — Its side effects can range from confusion to induced sprinting for cover, to feelings of pride. It has the power to stop people in their tracks and causes self-induced paralysis for nearly two minutes.
Reveille and Retreat ceremonies occur on most military installations across the U.S. at the beginning and the end of the duty day, typically 7 a.m. (7:30 a.m. at Hill Air Force Base) and 5 p.m. Some include playing the ceremonial music over the public address system.
Although it’s easy to follow commands given while in the vicinity of the flagpole, what about while across base at the running track or while driving down the road on base? The general rule is to cease all activities and render honors when the music is played (unless you’re taking an Air Force fitness assessment or it would otherwise cause a safety hazard).
While some reading this might be thinking, “Well, duh!” there is a reason for this commentary.
It seems that many people have forgotten their customs and courtesies, or choose to ignore what to do when the music is played. In spite of some vehicles stopping and people standing still and saluting, some people don’t clue into the fact that something is happening that requires their attention. This ignorance, willful or not, bothers me and many other military members.
I spent two years in Turkey, where the only U.S. flags I saw were in front of the wing headquarters building on base, at the U.S. embassy, or the ones being burned by protesters. The sweet sound of the “Star Spangled Banner” rang through the air only once a year at this base. I can tell you this: That once-a-year treat sent chills down my spine and brought tears to my eyes. To quote an old song, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”
Our flag is special and deserves our respect. It flies all over our great land, reminding us of the freedoms we love. It’s carried into battle to inspire those willing to fight for it. It drapes over the caskets of our fallen heroes who gave their all for it.
Remember the above reasons next time the music starts and you’re tempted to keep driving, run into the nearest building or duck into your vehicle.
Take advantage of that minute or two while standing and showing honor to the flag and think about those who have defended it and those who still defend it. Rather than turning up the radio and pretending to ignore the music so you don’t get two minutes behind schedule, stop and roll down your window and think of how privileged you are to live in this great nation.
So, since I’m already quoting song lyrics, how about “It’s time we stop, hey what’s that sound…” next time you realize “it’s five o’clock somewhere.”