By SGT Monica Smith, 3rd CAB Public AffairsApril 7, 2011
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - A few weeks ago I found myself outside at 5 p.m. I knew it was 5 p.m. because I could hear "To the Colors" playing on the speakers throughout post, followed by the sound of a cannon firing. I, along with the others around me, were standing silently rendering the proper honors as the colors, which we couldn't see, were taken to bed for the evening.
You know where I'm going with this.
From where we were standing, we could see cars continue to drive as the colors were lowered.
What was worse was seeing the spouses of those in leadership positions parked waiting for their "better half" to leave work. They remained in their vehicles for the duration of Retreat.
I'd like to believe that these individuals were simply naive to the customs and courtesies they are expected to adhere to. Or maybe they're visitors and didn't know, or maybe their awful music, with its bass pumped up too loud, made it hard for them to register that the people standing on the side of the road holding their hands to their heads weren't just practicing their salute. In any case, I'm certain they were uninformed and to alleviate any future misunderstandings, I'd like to take this time to educate everyone on the proper response to the retiring of the colors.
Soldiers in formation will follow all commands from the officer or noncommissioned officer in charge. Soldiers in uniform, but not in formation, will render a hand salute at the first note of music if outdoors. Or stand at attention, if indoors (not everyone knew that one, huh') It's in AR 600-25 in case you wanted to look that one up.)
Civilians and Soldiers wearing civilian clothes will stop walking and face the flag (or in the direction of the music, if you have no idea where the flag is). They will remove headgear with their right hand, and place the right hand over their heart until the last note of the music.
Because of a law change in 2009, Soldiers, veterans and retirees may render a hand salute rather than placing their hand over their heart.
Soldiers driving will stop the car (feel free to pull over to the side). Get out of the car. Face the flag (music) and salute. Civilians and Soldiers in civilian clothes will also stop driving and get out.
Then they will face the flag (music) and remove headgear with their right hand and place their right hand over their heart (or salute if permitted) until the last note of the music.
Now for some exceptions: If you are in a bus only the senior occupant will dismount and render the proper courtesy. Passengers and drivers of all other vehicles will dismount and render the appropriate courtesy.
So now you know and you can tell your fellow Soldiers, friends and spouses. When you hear the music playing - or when you realize all the cars stopped on the road haven't broken down but are stopped on purpose - do the right thing. And if you see someone not doing the right thing, gently inform them of what they should be doing. I'm sure, no, I'm almost certain, they just don't know any better.