Reveille and retreat

  • Published
  • By Col. Roger Watkins
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Acting Commander
It is a shame we can take the time to enjoy a beautiful sunny afternoon, but many of us won't take the time to honor our nation's flag and the sacrifice it symbolizes.

On a sunny afternoon recently, I was running on base when "Retreat" sounded. It blew me away when the bugle sounded and cars continued to drive pass me while I was standing at attention.

Over time things change in the Air Force, but one thing remains the same-- military tradition, customs and courtesies.

When the first note of the national anthem is played, military members in uniform will stop, face the flag or music and render the appropriate salute until the last note is played.

If you're driving, pull over, stop and don't proceed until the music is over. It is also appropriate to correct anyone who fails to show respect to our nation's flag.

"Reveille" first originated in 1812 and was used to assemble units or conduct roll call. It was not originally intended as honors for the flag.

"Retreat" was first used by the French Army and dates back to the Crusades. Since the Revolutionary War, the American Army has used this bugle call which always sounded at sunset. Its original purpose was to notify guards to start challenging until sunrise (meaning to "halt" and demand identification) and to tell the rank and file to go to their quarters and stay there.

Today, both ceremonies signify the beginning and ending of the official duty day and serve as ceremonies for paying respect to the flag and those who have served and continue to serve it.

"Reveille" and "Retreat" represent a dignified reverence to our national flag from its raising in the morning to its lowering in the evening. The melodies represent the sacrifices of our fallen comrades who will never hear the national anthem or render a salute again.

We have the opportunity to pay honor to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. When we hear the bugle and drums, signaling the beginning of the national anthem we are given the opportunity to honor them by stopping and rendering the proper customs and courtesies. I ask each of you - military, civilian, dependent, or retiree, to not only join me in honoring our flag and the traditions of Reveille and Retreat, but to also spread the word to all those around you. It's the RIGHT thing to do!