Properly rendering honors to the U.S. flag during reveille and retreat is an important custom the
White Sands Missile Range community should never take lightly.
“It’s our opportunity and obligation to honor those who have sacrificed for our freedoms, who cannot render honor themselves,” said WSMR Command Sgt. Maj. William Maddox.
According to Army Regulation 600-25, at the first note of music Soldiers and civilians who are outdoors should stand at attention to salute the flag. A Soldier in uniform should salute and a civilian as well as Soldiers out of uniform should put their right hand over their heart. If a male is wearing a headdress they should remove the headdress until the end of the song, females must keep their headdress on.
Individuals should hold the salute until the last note of music has been played.
Anyone driving a vehicle, military or civilian, should pull the vehicle over and the driver and any passengers should safely exit the vehicle to render honors. In the case of a bus or van, only the senior occupant should exit the vehicle and render honors. Individuals who cannot see the flag or do not know where the flag is positioned should render salute towards the direction of the music.
“Hopefully, you will take a minute or two out of your busy day and reflect on the flag of this great country we live in. You will stop and remember all of the men and women who have given their lives for the freedoms that we so often take for granted,” said Master Sgt. Mark Lyle in a Reveille and Retreat commentary piece printed in the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Last year, it was decided that WSMR would properly display the American flag 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The decision was made by WSMR Commander Brig. Gen. Timothy Coffin. Maddox said the change in procedure occurred due to the small number of uniformed military members.
The ‘Reveille’ ceremony was first started in the 1800s as a form of conducting unit roll call and calling in the night challenging sentries. ‘Retreat’ was first adopted from the French Army during the Revolutionary War, used to call out night challenging sentries.
“When you hear it, you are listening to a beautiful melody that has come to symbolize the finest qualities of military members everywhere for nearly 900 years,” Lyle said in his commentary.
The ceremonies are now intended to give respect to the flag. The reveille ceremony now symbolizes the start of the duty day while the retreat ceremony symbolizes of the end of the duty day, as set by the installation commander.
“Today, ‘Reveille’ and ‘Retreat’ ceremonies serve a twofold purpose,” Lyle said in his commentary. “Both ceremonies constitute a dignified homage to our national flag from its raising in the morning to its lowering in the evening.”
The reveille ceremony is signaled by the ‘Reveille’ bugle call. The retreat ceremony is signaled by the “Sound Retreat” bugle call followed by a gun salute and the playing of “To the Colors” while the flag is lowered. Other installations play the national anthem instead of “To the Colors.”
“We have the opportunity to honor them each and every day by stopping and rendering the proper courtesies when ‘Reveille’ and ‘Retreat’ are played,” Lyle said in his commentary. “‘Reveille’ takes only 110 seconds and ‘Retreat’ 122 seconds. Both are small sacrifices for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”