Thursday, November 4, 2010


The flag today

I am very proud of my good nephew M. He writes:

To many, the Cold War is ancient history. It is no more relevant, to some, than the Russo Japanese war, or the war of 1812. The fact is, however, that all three shaped our world, and continue to do so in ways that are as yet developing. Having said that, I will resist the urge to take my arguably brief commentary into the genre of a history dissertation, and simply say that the Cold War was my era of service.

Those of you with military experience are familiar with the daily ritual of "flag call". For those unfamiliar with the tradition, flag call comes at the end of the business day on U.S. Military installations the world over. Not surprisingly it coincides with the lowering of the flag, hence the name. Every afternoon the honor guard marches out in preparation of lowering the flag. All across said bases loudspeakers play "Retreat" ... a cannon then fires... and the Loudspeakers play "To The Colors". During the lowering of the colors, all traffic is supposed to stop. Military personnel and civilians alike are expected to exit their vehicles and pay their respects by either saluting, or placing their hand over their heart. This, of course, didn't always happen....

In 1987 I was stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana. The United States Army in their wisdom, or more likely complete lack of same, had issued me a patrol car, a weapon, and some small amount of authority. Several of my fellow Military Police Officers and I had discussed the fact that many service members and civilian personnel failed to observe flag call. They simply continued to drive on despite the fact that others pulled their vehicles to the side of the road to pay their respects and pedestrians were obviously doing the same. We found this situation to be unacceptable.

We became co-conspiritors.......

Each day we would roll down our windows in anticipation of the tell tale notes from the loudspeakers. Once we heard the music begin (provided we were not responding to an emergency) we would hit our blue lights and pull our vehicles across all lanes of traffic. We would then exit our vehicles, salute at the appropriate time, and wait until the ceremony was complete while pointedly looking at the operators of the nearest vehicles....

We got mixed reactions. Retired military people would usually smile and participate. (They knew what we were up to and appreciated it) Many officers and NCO's did the same. A few, with a lot of brass on their collars, seemed to be seriously put out. I was honestly worried about their concerns.... for about four seconds.

Years later I was working in another capacity for the American People. It was September 11th, 2001. Some planes had hit the towers in New York. I was still wearing a gun, and still had some small amount of authority. We'd heard on a local radio station that the President had ordered flags lowered to half staff. No direction had come from our immediate supervisors who were, understandably, otherwise occupied. I once again found myself a co-conspiritor, and with full knowledge that a butt chewing was coming, we lowered the flag to half staff.

The brass was predictably, again, put out.

We took our butt chewing. The flag stayed where we'd put it. We didn't even care for four seconds......

Be right, M.

#8924 Picture of a Soldier and American Flag by JVPD

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