Last Thursday I attended the holiday tree lighting in front of the III Corps flagpole. Seats filled up with Fort Hood service members and their families, members of the Fort Hood Good Neighbor community and so many little ones hoping to get a glimpse of Santa.
As the choir of Fort Hood children sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and the crowd joined in, I was reminded about the commitment to families and the opportunity to build communities.
As we gear up for the most wonderful time of the year, it is important to remember to take the time to slow down. It is important to take the time to enjoy our families and friends. It is also important to remember our service members who have served and are currently serving this great nation all across the world.
My husband and I arrived a few minutes early to the tree lighting and had the opportunity to watch soldiers bring down the flag in front of the headquarters for the day and retire the colors. As the bugle sounds of “Retreat” began playing, and then “To the Colors” began, I raised my right hand to cover my heart and thought about this special moment of paying respect to our nation’s flag.
Many have sacrificed. Many continue to sacrifice. Families are separated. Loved ones are thousands of miles away. All these things for our great nation and for our flag.
The day after I stood there with my Army family and friends paying our respects to the flag, I found myself driving down Tank Destroyer at the same time for the day’s Retreat. I stopped my car. I turned off the engine and got out. I faced the sound of the music and as the first few notes of “To the Colors” began, I raised my right hand to my heart.
At this moment, I began thinking the same thoughts as the day prior — our great nation and our service members serving all over the world and their families.
What struck me at this moment was the cars I saw driving right by me on the other side of the road. Some eventually stopped. Others did not. At this point, I felt a mixture of emotions — a little anger, but most of all disappointment. I feel such pride from stopping to honor the flag and what is stands for, and to watch people drive by without stopping hurt my heart.
I had to wonder if those folks who drove right past me as I was standing there with my hand over my heart didn’t know or didn’t understand. As we head into the holiday season, I thought it would be a good reminder about paying respect to our flag and all that it stands for.
Retreat is one of the oldest traditions in the U.S. Army, dating back to the Revolutionary War. Back then the instruments were a little different, but the honor and respect were exactly the same. The U.S. Army website says the ceremony serves two purposes — to signal the end of the duty day and pay respect to the nation’s flag.
Once the bugle sounds, everyone driving on the installation should stop their vehicle. It is encouraged that service members and government civilians turn off their cars, as long as it is safe to get out of their cars and render the appropriate honors. It is also encouraged that if you are outside of the building you stop and render the appropriate honors.
So, as you render honors when our flag is brought down at 5 p.m. and the colors are retired, please keep our deployed units in your hearts and prayers as you celebrate with friends and family.
Reena O’Brien is a military spouse and Herald Correspondent. She lives on Fort Hood.