Reveille and retreat - what do I do?

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michelle Moss
  • 319th Force Support Squadron
It's almost 5 p.m. and you are ready to head home for the day. You start to walk out the door and hear the sound of retreat playing. What do you do?

Some of us would like to turn around and walk back inside the building, or make a mad dash for the car. Time is precious and you don't really want to waste two minutes of it standing in the chilly North Dakota wind, do you? Honestly, how much time does reveille and retreat actually take out of your day? 110 seconds in the morning and 122 seconds in the afternoon is a small fraction of the 86,400 seconds in a day. Over the years many of us have forgotten the importance of reveille and retreat. We all know the music signals the beginning and end of the official duty day, but most of us neglect to think about the fact that the ceremonies involved also show respect to the flag and honor those who serve it. When you ignore the tradition by walking or driving during the music, you are disrespecting not only the flag, but our country that we spend every day defending.

Here at our wing, reveille plays every day at 7 a.m. and retreat plays at 5 p.m. The procedures for both ceremonies are the same. If you are a military member in uniform, at the sound of reveille or retreat, stop and stand at parade rest facing the direction of the music. During the slight pause between the bugle and the music, snap to attention. At the first note of "To the Colors" or the National Anthem, render a salute until the last note is played. If you are in Air Force PT gear you are not required to salute.

If you are a civilian or a military member not in uniform, at the sound of the bugle, stop and face the direction of the music. Remove your headgear and stand silently with your hand over your heart for the duration of the music.

If you are driving at 5 p.m. pay attention to your surroundings. When you see other cars stopped on the side of the road, it's for a reason. Stop your vehicle, turn off your radio, crack your window and sit quietly through the music.

Last week I was driving through base housing after work. It was one of the last warm days of fall and there were many children playing outside. I suddenly noticed that all the children who had been enjoying the last bits of sunshine stopped and stood perfectly still. One of them pressed a small hand against his chest and the others quickly followed suit. A look of pride fell over their faces. I didn't have to glance at the clock to know what was happening. Retreat had just begun.

I quickly pulled over and put my car in park and watched as the children stood silently for the entire 122 seconds of retreat. Most of them probably didn't even realize the importance of what they were doing, however they stood. When the music was over they returned to their playing. It made me wonder, who taught these children the importance of paying respect to the flag? I was instantly proud of the unnamed parent who shared the tradition.

As I continued my drive home the image of those children floated around in my head and I started to think...if someone that age can stop what they are doing and take the time to honor the flag, why is it many of us who wear the uniform everyday run for our cars? Instead of making a mad dash back inside when you hear the music play, do your duty. Stand tall and be proud of the flag that represents our country...the one that we all swore to support and defend. During Reveille and Retreat ceremonies, think about how great our country is because of everyone who wears the uniform...past and present. Let those small children remind you of the importance of taking a few minutes every day to pay respect to the flag and our country.