U.S. Army Central

Feature Stories

Starting and ending your day with a salute

By Story by Staff Sgt. Anri Baril | U.S. Army Central | June 23, 2020

SUMTER , SC, UNITED STATES 06.23.2020 --

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Twice a day, Soldiers stand at the position of attention, saluting the U.S. flag during the playing of reveille and retreat.

Soldiers often rise well before the sun, dutifully following steps of a routine to prepare for the challenges they will face each day. A Soldier’s day does not truly begin until they take part in a ritual that dates back to the founding of our nation's military: rendering honors to the colors during the playing of reveille and retreat.

“Rendering honors to the colors is a time honored tradition that is a matter of pride,” said Sgt. Maj. John Condliffe, U.S. Army Central’s Operations Sergeant Major. “Pride in the defense of the country, and pride in defense of those who can't defend themselves.”

The origins of the term “retreat” is taken from the French word “retraite,” which refers to the evening ceremony. The bugle call sounded at retreat was first used by the French army as far back as the First Crusades. Retreat was sounded at sunset to notify sentries to start the challenging procedure (halting people and demanding identification) until sunrise, and to tell the Soldiers to return to their quarters.

To this day, the ceremony remains a military custom practiced around the world. The old cavalry call “To the Standard,” that was used since about 1835, has been replaced by the present call of “To the Colors,” which is afforded the same respect as the playing of the national anthem that is played immediately afterward here at Shaw AFB as the flag is lowered in the evening.

Reveille was not originally intended as honors to the flag. In 1812, it was a drum call as an alarm for Soldiers to rise for day duty and a signal to sentries they could leave off night challenging. As time passed, reveille came to denote when the flag was raised in the morning as honors were paid.

According to Army Regulation 600-25, Salutes, Honors and Visits of Courtesy, Soldiers in uniform will stop, stand at attention, face the flag or direction of the music, and salute once Reveille begins playing. Civilians and Soldiers not in uniform will stand at attention, face the flag or music, and place their right hand over their heart. The same procedure is required when "To the Colors" begins.

At Shaw AFB and most military installations, this show of respect will be executed by any person who is outdoors and doing any activity to include, but not limited to, walking and individual or unit physical training. Provided it is safe to do so, any personnel who is driving on post will pull over, park, exit the vehicle, and render honors to the flag. If personnel cannot do this safely, they should continue to move with the flow of traffic to avoid any accidents.

“While the sound of the bugle may stop us from what we are doing momentarily,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Joserolando Rodriguez, USARCENT Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion Senior Enlisted Advisor, “the tradition and honor that accompanies the music deserves a moment of our time.”

“When we're rendering honors to the colors, we're not rendering honors as allegiance to the military, we're rendering honors as an allegiance to the people of the United States,” continued Rodriguez. “We're respecting everyone else in the country. That respect is associated with the values of our country and our freedom as citizens of the United States.”