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Respect the flag: Honor Retreat properly

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- While not every servicemember knows the symbolic significance behind the retreat ceremony, everyone knows how to properly observe retreat. 

Or do they? The number of cars that continue along Falcon Parkway even as the national anthem begins to play and cars around them stop suggests that may not be the case. 

According to Air Force Manual 36-2203, “Drill and Ceremonies,” the retreat ceremony signals the end of the official duty day and serves to pay respect to the flag. On Schriever, retreat is observed at 4:30 p.m. when Retreat and the Star-Spangled Banner play over the base public address system. 

As soon as the music begins to play, anyone outdoors must face the flag, or the music only if the flag is not visible, and render honors. Servicemembers in uniform salute; those not in uniform place their hands—or hats, if worn—over their hearts. 

On Schriever and other Air Force bases, drivers stop their vehicles for the duration of the national anthem. On an Army base, drivers stop and step out of their vehicles to render honors. 

Granted, the public address system is sometimes hard to hear. This is where situational awareness comes to play: if the cars around you are hitting their brakes, and your clock reads 4:30, follow their lead and stop. 

In addition to the retreat ceremony, the same rules apply for honoring the flag anytime it is lowered—which is frequently out at Schriever because of high winds. If you are in the vicinity of the DeKok Building and see a Security Forces detail lowering the flag, stop and render the proper honors. 

Remember, honor and defend the principles our flag represents: be aware of when retreat takes place and observe it accordingly.