This is a commentary that was posted on my base’s website. Please read, enjoy, and share if you’d like. Many may not know the expectations on a military installation. However, all of us should know to respect the American Flag.
|Commentary by me!
50th Space Wing chaplain’s assistant
9/29/2015 – SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.
As a young Airman First Class in the dorms at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, it consistently irritated me when my fellow Airmen ran from the playing of the national anthem during retreat. I never understood why people deliberately ran from their car into the dorms just to avoid standing at attention and saluting the American Flag or in the direction of the music during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. When confronted about it, my friends excused their behavior by saying, “It is annoying,” or “I have been at work all day and the last thing I want to do is stand at attention and salute.” I could not wrap my head around the fact they saw paying respect to our flag as a nuisance.Several years later, I became a Military Training Instructor, back at Lackland. As a MTI, my favorite class to teach was present arms. I loved making the class mine by explaining to new Air Force trainees why respecting the American Flag is so important. Isn’t that one of the main reasons we all joined the military; because of the pride and patriotism we felt?
I will never forget my first solo flight; I was a brand new instructor and had been on “the street” for only about a month and a half. My flight was nearing the middle of their first week of training and had only learned present arms within the last week. I was in my flight office doing administrative work while they were working in their areas; folding and rolling, clipping strings, etc. The windows were open because let’s be honest; the dorms get pretty hot in Texas, in the middle of August. I heard the start of retreat and knew shortly thereafter, the national anthem would begin. Since my flight and I were already indoors, I did not expect anything of them, except to continue what they were doing. Imagine my surprise and pride when I looked up from my paperwork and saw 57 young men standing at attention, facing the windows and saluting while the national anthem was playing. Not a single one of them remained seated, neglecting to salute. I cannot express to you how proud I felt in that moment. Although they were indoors and should not have been saluting, they got the message I sent them during my present arms class. I did not stop them. I did not yell at them and tell them they were wrong for their actions. I could not force myself to do it. I refused to make myself correct them immediately. However, I did mentor them later. I explained to them that while I appreciate their initiative, it is not correct to salute indoors, unless it is considered an outdoor ceremony. I did not stop them when it was happening, because I knew it was likely something I missed when I taught the present arms class to them. And how could I stop them? They were brand new to the Air Force and were doing what they thought was the right thing to do.
Here is my challenge to you: instead of bolting to your car, or remaining inside to avoid “getting caught” by the national anthem at 4:30p.m., let’s all do the right thing. While you are standing there listening to the national anthem, facing the direction of the flag, standing at attention and saluting, reflect. Reflect on why you are here. Why did you join the Air Force? Why do you continue to serve? What does the national anthem mean to you? What about the American Flag? Three to five minutes is not a long time; but it is long enough for all of us to reflect on why we are here, doing what we are doing.