It’s rare that I ever return to my old Air Force base. But a number of months ago I was visiting Seymour Johnson AFB with a veteran friend of mine. As we strolled across the beautiful and freshly cut landscape in front of the Headquarter building, we heard the musical notes of the National Anthem suddenly resonating across the lawn. At the same time we noticed everyone was turning toward the American Flag.
My friend and I, being military reserve retirees recognized instantly that the retreat ceremony had just begun. Retreat, opposite from reveille, is a ceremony that’s preformed everyday if weather allows, at 4:30 p.m. to signify the end of the workday and to show respect for the American flag.
We both turned in direction of the music and the flag as it is readied for lowering and folding by the 4th Fighter Wing Base Honor guard. My friend placed his right hand over his heart and stood at attention while I stood at attention and rendered a military salute. Of course, we were both in civilian clothes. As usual chills of pride ran up and down my spine.
Was one of us wrong in our methodology? Did we properly show respect for our Nation’s flag?
We were both correct. Buried deep in an 2008 appropriation bill for the Iraq war and later voted into law (Public Law 110-181) provides that retirees who are present in civilian clothes are to place their hand over their heart or render the salute in respect to the flag. This includes the “hoisting, lowering, or passing of the United States Flag, as well as the National Anthem and other official honors”.
What should others do?
Recently I was watching pre-game ceremony of an NFL football game when they started playing the National Anthem. Less than fifty percent of the players properly rendered respect. The blasé rest, the scofflaws stood by looking around at the fans, wiping their noses, spitting on the turf, or scratching certain body parts. I had a flashback to the daily scene at Seymour Johnson AFB with tremendous pride in the behavior of our military people who serve this nation.
What exactly is the proper procedure?
SEC. 594 Section 9 of title 4 states that “all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.
Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.”
Do you remember someone not rendering respect to the Nation’s flag and the National Anthem recently?
God bless America!
Public Law 110-181 www.dod.gov/dodgc/olc/docs/pl110-181.pdf
The Global Position