Straight Talk: Proud to be an American

  • Published
  • By Col. Stacy L. Yike
  • 66th Air Base Group commander
This has been another great week at Hanscom! May brings talk of graduation and plans for the future for our many students. The Hanscom Spouses Club Scholarship event for our high school seniors and spouses highlighted the amazing achievements these young people have accomplished. Community College of the Air Force graduation celebrated our many Airmen attaining their degrees, and the Armed Forces Communication and Electronics Association scholarship awards luncheon spotlighted local ROTC college students.

Everywhere I turn, I see the young minds that are the future of our Air Force, our nation and our planet. They are truly inspiring. These events always give me that extra boost of patriotism. I am so grateful that I was born into a nation where higher education is almost taken for granted, as it is available to every American who chooses to pursue it. On these days, it is easy for me to remember why we take four minutes out of each day to stand still and feel privileged to be Americans.

Question: Last evening after a light meal I was taking a power walk around the base. As I approached the static jet display, evening colors commenced. Although a retiree in civilian clothing, I turned to the circle of flags and rendered a hand salute. As is appropriate, traffic came to a stop. But I noticed during this short period that personnel on the running track didn't even pause.

This gave me bad feeling. When my circuit was near its end over by the track, I approached a young runner and asked him if he was in the military. He was. I asked if he heard the bugle and the playing of the national anthem and if he knew he was being disrespectful of the colors. He answered, "Yes, but my commander told us that if we were in the middle of a PT test in the morning, we could ignore the rendering." I asked if he was part of a PT test now and he said no.

His response bothered me. In my 26 years in the Navy I never had my troops perform anything during the time frame when colors occurred. I've never been on a military base where colors was not observed solemnly. Sure, you see athletes at ball games with their hands in their pockets, popping gum and talking during the national anthem (and the last line of the Star Spangled banner is not "Play ball!" with hooting and hollering), but I shouldn't see this kind of action on a military base. Perhaps a note to the troops or some counseling by seniors might instill a little sense of pride or discipline in personnel. I must be getting old, as the national anthem has always brought a good feeling to me, but it's always been that way. Perhaps it's my upbringing.

Response: Thank you for your service and thank you for reminding us of this important tradition that honors our nation. One of the wonderful things about standing on a military base at 5 p.m. is that we are not too busy to pay our respects. Regardless of whether you are military, civilian, contractor, dependent or visitor -- old or young -- every individual stops for four minutes and reflects on the wonders of being an American, even if you were in the middle of a sprint set.

Here's a quick protocol refresher. If you are a military member, stop and face the flag at the first sounds of Reveille or Retreat. If you can't see the flag, face the general direction of the flag or the sound of music. If you're in uniform, stand at attention and salute. If not in uniform, stop and stand at attention. If you are a civilian, it is proper for you to afford honors to your flag. When you hear Reveille or Retreat, stop, turn toward the flag or music and place your right hand over your heart. If you're driving, stop and listen to the sound of freedom then resume driving. It is only four minutes.