Airman reflects on importance of flag ceremony

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dillon White
  • 341st Space Wing Public Affairs Office
The American flag stood with a sense of strength inside the recruiter's office. It did not lean against a wall and was not cramped for space. It was not lifelessly laying over a piece of furniture either. 

It stood tall and straight, like I thought justice, freedom and equality should stand.
In basic training, I was taught to salute it. 

When reveille burst through the intercom in the morning, we jumped out of our bunks and laced our boots as swiftly as the flag was raised. 

At 10 p.m. taps played and the 320th Training Squadron trainees from Flight 114 quietly stood at attention. 

I thought of the servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives to defend the way I live as I stood next to my rack. 

I realized the flag embodies their lives and experiences, as well as my own. 

Following basic training, I attended technical school at Fort George G. Meade, Md., and part of an Airman's duty at Fort Meade was to participate in flag detail. 

Six Airmen piled into a government van driven by a U.S. Army NCO in front of the Air Force detachment at 6:30 a.m. 

Soon, the bare flag pole came into view through the window of the van, and the sergeant turned the wheel to make the right-hand turn toward the flag pole. 

The flag at Fort Meade was positioned in front of the headquarters' building and flew over an immense parade field. 

Our detail slowly marched toward the pole. 

We pulled the rope swiftly to carry the flag to the top as its braids buzzed through the eyelet at the top of the pole. 

The flag flew in the back of my mind all day. I could hear it in the wind. 

At the end of the duty day, we made the same trip in the van and slowly marched back to the flag. 

I could feel the wind's strength through the rope as we waited. 

The metal clasps fastening the flag to the rope clanked against the flag pole and six Airmen standing at attention could hear it better than anyone else. 

I couldn't mistake that sound for any other in the world. 

Retreat would sound off over the fort's loudspeakers and we lowered the flag with a steady hand-over-hand rhythm. 

"Catchers post," the detail commander would shout, and two Airmen would help the halyards prevent the flag from touching the ground. 

The halyards rendered a silent salute. 

It was a slow and ceremonious salute, unlike any other salute we had ever known. 

Then we folded the American flag that flew over Fort Meade. 

It was cool to the touch like the breeze that rippled its colors, heavy like the cannon that dug it's heals into the ground next to the flag pole, and alive in our hands like the grass that wisped on the parade field. 

It was the flag we all swore to defend at the recruiter's office and learned to respect in basic training. 

Our fates and hearts were intertwined with it. 

It was the best job I've ever had. 

I can't wait to do flag detail again.