Commentary

November 9, 2012

What does ‘Old Glory’ mean?

In any society, its heritage or legacy is fashioned and passed on by each generation. The Air Force is no different. The Air Force is a society and each new generation of Airmen has the duty and responsibility of carrying on the heritage. As leaders, you must celebrate our rich history and ensure the newest generations of Airmen practice and keep Air Force traditions alive.

A year ago, I assumed the duty of Airman Leadership School commandant. I thought to myself, what a privilege it is to serve in this capacity. Developing future leaders and preserving our enlisted heritage are topics close to my heart.

My excitement grew as my first day approached. During my studies, I reviewed the lesson titled Air Force Heritage. This lesson discusses many aspects of our military culture. My favorite topic in this lesson is drill and ceremony.

To think, I get to regularly perform military drill and ceremony traditions that date back to the Revolutionary War. More importantly, we take the time to pay respect to the U.S. flag, Old Glory. The U.S. flag is symbolic of the United States and the values “for which it stands.” Then why is it so many individuals, military and civilian alike, run inside buildings or to their vehicles to avoid participation in reveille and retreat?

On occasion my team of instructors and I have corrected reveille and retreat dodgers. Common responses are: “I did not know I had to do it with ALS” or “I thought I was only required to participate when the giant voice sounds on base.” Should it matter that ALS is conducting reveille and retreat?

Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Standards, para. 1.6.2., Respect for the Flag states: The Flag of the United States is one of the most enduring and sacred symbols of our country. It represents the principles and ideals you have pledged to defend and for which many have made the ultimate sacrifice. Airmen shall treat it with the same respect due to the highest military and public officials.

Nowhere in the AFI does it state you can pick and choose when to participate in reveille and retreat. Instead, the AFI directs immediate action and reminds us that our customs and courtesies reflect the unique nature of our profession and guides significant aspects of our behavior.

In essence, it doesn’t matter if reveille and retreat occurs at multiple times or in different locations on base; you must always render the proper customs and courtesies.

Another example is some participants in reveille and retreat don’t take it seriously. I’ve witnessed people laughing during ceremonies and displaying a lack of military bearing. When this occurs I am livid. People have lost their lives in defense of this flag. Then, I realize those individuals have no idea of the importance of the activity. They are just going through the motions. We must always take the opportunity to educate anyone who fails to give respect to the flag.

As a Haitian American my mother instilled in me the value of freedom. I understood the concept of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” before I decided to serve. We must never lose sight of those rights.

Simply put, the next time you look at the U.S. flag or participate in military drill and ceremony honoring the flag, take a moment to remember those serving and those who have served. Never forget those sacrifices. That is what Old Glory means to me.




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