Honoring colors has sacred meaning
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Honoring colors has sacred meaning
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Honoring colors has sacred meaning
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FORT GORDON, Ga. (July 31, 2015) -- It's a sound that can be heard loud and clear from parts of the installation, yet some people in the closest proximity to its origin appear the most oblivious to it.

"Reveille," "Retreat," and "To the Colors" are played daily, and the military has specific protocols in place. Individual garrison commands determine the times and location each is played.

At Fort Gordon, "Reveille" is played at 6:30 a.m. to signify the beginning of the work day, and "Retreat" is played at 5 p.m., followed by "To the Colors," signifying the end of the work day.

The installation's colors are raised at those times, and all activity briefly stops.

Army Regulation 600- 25 and The Soldier's Guide, Field Manual 7-21-13, serve as guides and are in place to help reinforce proper procedures.

In the morning, Soldiers are required to stop, face the direction of the flag (or sound of music if the flag is not visible), stand at attention on the first note of "Reveille," and salute. In the evening, Soldiers must come to the position of attention and face the flag (or direction of music) on the first note of "Retreat." Render a hand salute at the first note of "To the Colors," which plays immediately following "Retreat."

When in formation or a group, the senior Soldier present must call the group to "Attention," then "Parade Rest" on the first note of "Retreat." That Soldier will then call the group to "Attention" and "Present, Arms" at the first note of "To the Colors," and then "Order, Arms" at the conclusions.

Civilians are also expected to stop and honor the flag. The only differences are they should remove headgear and place their right hand over their heart.

People traveling in vehicles or who are indoors are no exception. Drivers should stop, dismount, and render proper salute at the start of "Retreat" and "Reveille." Busses and military vehicles carrying multiple personnel do not need to unload; only the individual in charge of the vehicle should dismount and render salute. Personnel indoors should face the music's direction and stand at attention until its conclusion.

Sgt. Maj. Christopher Reeves, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security sergeant major, said rendering courtesy during flag call is more than a matter of following protocol. It is a basic responsibility and component of the Army values.

"When you break everything down, no matter what your job is in the Army, it all boils down to good order and discipline," Reeves said. "If you have that, you can accomplish any mission."

"Reveille," "Retreat," and "To the Colors" are types of bugle calls that date back to the Civil War era. According to the Federation of American Scientists Military Analysis Network website, multiple bugle calls were used throughout the day as an "authoritative system of calls to eliminate confusion experienced by the Union Army during the Civil War." Bugle calls' usage has since changed, but are still a significant part of the military.

"'Reveille' and 'Retreat' really allow you to pause for a moment, and not only present honors to the flag and what it means, but it also reminds us of the Soldiers that came before us that have gotten us to the place we're at now," Reeves said.

And despite military customs and courtesies being instilled in Soldiers from their first day of training, overtime some become lax and don't enforce what they were taught. It's a scenario Reeves witnesses too often. One day in particular stands out. He was in his office when "Reveille" sounded, so he stood at attention facing the music through his office window. As he looked outside, he saw a few stopped cars with Soldiers and civilians honoring the colors. Then he watched cars pass by, posing two issues.

"One, you're really being disrespectful. You know what's going on at this point. People are standing outside their cars," Reeves said. "Two, it presents a safety hazard as people are getting out of their cars and doing the right thing, and others are not."

Reeves believes it is more likely a matter of people being uncertain as to what they're supposed to do than it is a matter of disrespect.

When Reeves is outside and sees someone ignoring the flag call, he approaches the person at the music's conclusion (if they are within earshot of him), introduces himself, and makes an on-the-spot correction by explaining what was supposed to happen; and he encourages others to do the same.

"It's a simple process, but I think for young Soldiers, they get a lot thrown at them in a short period of time and get confused so they either rush indoors to get away from it, or stay indoors so they don't have to," Reeves said. "And if they're in cars, they keep going."

Those who do understand the protocol should step up by reminding others what to do.

"It deserves the proper attention," Reeves said. "There is honestly nothing short of an emergency that should stop you from doing the right thing."

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