It’s one of the most preeminent standards of Corps tradition: the color guard.
Every unit, installation and command echelon within the Corps has one. Four Marines, two riflemen and two flagsmen, one holding Old Glory and the other the Marine Corps colors, are all it takes to represent the USMC in total.
Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s color guard is no different.
“We represent the Marine Corps and show our military appearance and discipline,” said Sgt. Abraham Barcenas, the station’s color sergeant and a native of Hawthorne, Calif. “We do it to provide a service to the community.”
According to a 2005 story written about the Marine Corps color guard, before the 20th century, military colors were carried covered except for ceremonies or when in sight of the enemy. A unit’s colors provided battlefield recognition for both friend and foe. The flag symbolized the reputation of the unit. To ensure the troops knew the flag of their own regiment the two flags were paraded before them during reviews and other ceremonies. This is how the color guard came to be, and after time, the color guards were selected from among the strongest and bravest troops.
Today, the color guard still stands as a group of Marines who can march with the precision and synchronicity needed for Corps decorum.
“We have to talk to the Marine and make sure they’re squared away,” said Barcenas. “That they have a good military appearance, they’re coordinated, motivated and dedicated.”
The Marines are chosen from different sectors, but that poses no problem for their execution.
“We get to know each other and get that Marine connection going on,” said Barcenas.
Color guards are called upon to perform a multitude of tasks, including changes of command, relief and appointments, academic graduations, veterans’ congregation, naturalization ceremonies and, more somberly, funerals.
“When we present that flag, we become a part of their (the attendants) lives,” said Barcenas.
The red and yellow of the Corps’ colors, actually gold and scarlet, resound within the retinas of Marines everywhere, and, like the Corps itself, is relatively young.
According to Marines Barracks’ website, it was not until April 18, 1925, that Marine Corps Order Number 4 designated gold and scarlet as the official colors of the U.S. Marine Corps. These colors, however, were not reflected in the official Marine Corps flag until Jan. 18, 1939, when a new design incorporating the new colors was approved. This design is essentially that of today’s Marine Corps standard, and was the result of a two-year study concerning the design of a standard Marine Corps flag, and the units to which such a flag should be issued.
The fifty-four colored streamers which adorn the Battle Colors represent the history and accomplishments of the Marine Corps.
The color guard still stands as one of the most honorable displays of patriotism Marines may perform.
“It shows we’re proud of who we are,” said Barcenas. “We should always present a positive image to our country and community. When we go out there, we show our uniforms, our Marine Corps drill movements and sometimes that’s the only time people ever see us.”
All the color guard Marines agreed being part of the detail is among the most rewarding acts they’ve performed as Marines. For information on how to become part of the color guard, contact your unit’s color sergeant, or for the base color guard, contact Barcenas at (928) 269-2122.