By Col. Lee A. Flint
314th Operations Group commander
It’s one of those things that hits you after you’ve been away from a military base for a while. My family and I moved to Little Rock from the Pentagon last summer. After two years of off-base living, the playing of “Retreat” followed by the National Anthem at the end of the duty day gives a sense of pride and patriotism that is often taken for granted. Sometimes, if you aren’t aware of your surroundings you won’t realize it’s happening. You see cars coming to a stop, and you look in your rear view mirror for the fire truck. Then you look at the clock, turn down the radio, and sit quietly while the Anthem plays. If you’re lucky you’ll spot the flag as a small team of Airman lower Old Glory with reverence.
Do you remember a little about the history of our flag? You probably haven’t thought about it for awhile. According to historian Duane Streufert, our flag was likely designed by Congressman Francis Hopkinson from New Jersey. The “First Flag Act” was passed by Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. The text read, “Resolved. That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” By the time the act was ratified, the patriots had been at war with the British for more than two years, and the outcome was not yet assured. The flag was then, and remains to this day, a rallying point for all those who serve.
It should not come as a surprise, then, that military members and their families are more likely to fly the flag often, and take offense when proper courtesies are not rendered to the flag. You know facts such as:
During hoisting and lowering, all personnel face the flag, stand at attention. If in uniform render salute, civilians and military members not in uniform place right hand over their heart, or headgear at left shoulder w/ hand over heart.
The flag is displayed to the flag’s own right (observer’s left). It should always be to the right of all other flags.
The flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during hours of darkness.
It should not be displayed on days when weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is used.
When displayed against a wall the union should be uppermost to the flag’s right.
The flag is never used as apparel, bedding, or drapery.
For Air Mobility crews, reverence for the flag has taken another form, one that was very personal to me as a C-130 squadron commander. Many of us have been called upon to transport a fallen service member from forward deployed bases on his or her way home to the United States. The first view of the flag draped transfer case always brings a wave of sadness, but as it is brought aboard the aircraft, the sadness is replaced with a sense of pride and resolve.
So today, when “Retreat” plays, stop, face the music, and salute at the first note of the National Anthem. Remember those who risked everything to make it stand for something important, and those who fight to defend and protect it today.