Never forget that fireworks and fun are about freedom

We'd also have some combat-based competitions like who could load a 60-pound, high-explosive, anti-tank round the fastest, or how long it would take a group of soldiers to pull a 12-ton M113 armored personnel carrier 100 feet. (An aside: One year we found that pulling the M113 didn't take long at all if you hid my buddies Brian Young and Steve Agag inside it and they drove the damn thing over the finish line.)

At 5 p.m., wherever we were and whatever we were doing, Fourth of July or not, we stopped for retreat. It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagpoles in the open. In the military, reveille is the signal for the start of the official duty day and is sounded when the flag is raised.

The retreat ceremony serves a twofold purpose. It signals the end of the official duty day and serves as a ceremony for paying respect to the flag. The National Anthem is played while a detail of soldiers takes down and properly folds the flag for storage until the morning. If you are on base when this happens, you stop whatever you're doing, (this includes driving your car), face the direction of the flag and salute.

Whenever we held the "Olympics" on the Fourth of July, there would always be some newbie private or maybe some lunkheaded specialist or sergeant who'd think that just because we had it easy all day it meant you didn't have to stop for retreat.

One year, our company commander, Cpt. Thomas "Trip" Bowen spied someone eating a hot dog while he should've been saluting the flag.

Surprisingly, he didn't lose his temper. He walked over to the young man and said, "Private, the only way we can enjoy things like this," he waved his arm toward the grills, the food and the sports equipment, "is if we remember to do things like this." he pointed to a row of soldiers standing at attention, saluting our nation's flag.

Vote on this Story by clicking on the Icon


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment