By Staff Sgt. Warren WrightJune 13, 2013
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - In rain or snow, in the dark and cold winter mornings to the warm and sunny summer afternoons, soldiers with the 21st Theater Sustainment Command stand ready to honor the U.S. and German flags by ceremonially raising them at the start of the day, and lowering them at the end of the day.
The ceremonies, which are known as Reveille and Retreat, are practiced daily on Panzer Kaserne here, 365 days a year, regardless of the weather or any other factors.
"We, as the (noncommissioned officer) corps, are the keepers of the colors," said 1st Sgt. Sonja Manning, the first sergeant of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 21st TSC, and a native of Jacksonville, FL. "It all falls into customs and courtesy. I am very true to what we are supposed to do; the upholding of tradition."
"It shows respect to others who fought for this flag," said Sgt. Lackana Galindez, a cable maintenance system installer with the 21st TSC and a native of Fresno, CA. "It's showing people a remembrance of what we do and why we are here."
Reveille originates from the French word for "wake up" and it began as a way to wake military personnel at dawn for assembly and roll call. In essence, it signified the beginning of the official duty day and was not originally intended as honors for the flag.
Retreat was first used by the French Army and dates back to the Crusades. The American Army has used the "Retreat" bugle call since the Revolutionary War when it signaled guards to start challenging people approaching their post as well as notifying the ranks to return to their quarters and remain there until morning.
Ensuring soldiers remember and observe military tradition is "important because a lot of things change in the Army, but we still have to bridge that gap," said Manning. "We need to uphold that tradition and train Soldiers to uphold those standards."
On Panzer Kaserne, "Reveille" is played at exactly 6:30 a.m. at which time all personnel stand in place and salute the flag as it is raised to its final position. At the end of the duty day, "Retreat" is played followed by "To the Colors" when the flag is lowered, folded and stored for the evening.
"Junior Soldiers should know why we're doing this and why we're here," said Galindez. "It's not just a detail, it's actually something important."
"That flag represents our history, our freedom, and all of those things that are important to us as a nation," said Manning. "We wear the flag on the right side of our sleeves and we take honor and pride in our uniform. That's how we should take honor and pride when we are conducting flag honors - that's why it's called flag honors."
"It's an honor and it's a commitment," added Manning. "It's a commitment to what we do when we wear the uniform."