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Respecting reveille

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Each morning the night sky fades away, and as dawn breaks on Little Rock Air Force Base, a familiar sound is met with equally familiar greetings. Starting this month reveille found itself echoed by "To the Colors", a not uncommon pairing. We use this pairing as an opportunity to pay respect to our nation's flag; and a glimpse back reveals that reveille has long been a part of military tradition.

According to the army.gov.au web site, the word "reveille" originated in medieval times, around 1600, to wake the soldiers at dawn. The name comes from "réveille" (or "réveil"), the French word for "wake up."

Reveille was first used by the U.S. military in 1812 and was used to muster units or as a means to conduct roll call, as cited on the kmialumni.org web site. It was not originally intended as honors for the flag.

Today, reveille serves a twofold purpose, according to the www.180fw.ang.af.mil web site. It signals the beginning of the official duty day. It also serves as a moment to pay respect to the flag and those who serve it. It begins a dignified homage to our national flag from its raising in the morning to its lowering in the evening.

Whether in uniform or not, at the first sounds of reveille, stop where you are and turn to face the flag, or in a case where the flag is not visible, turn in the general direction of the music and, if in uniform, stand at parade rest. If not in uniform, protocol still dictates that you stop and face the flag out of respect.

In uniform when you hear the first note of "To the Colors", come to attention and render the salute. Do not salute if you are not in uniform. Instead, come to attention and place your right hand over your heart. If you have on a hat, remove it with the right hand and hold it at the left shoulder while the right hand is over the heart. Hold the salute and/or hand over heart until "To the Colors" has finished playing.

It is only on occasion that the civilian public has a chance to pay tribute to our flag. We're privileged to show our respect at the beginning and end of each day. We embrace this opportunity that few experience, and continue to appreciate the freedom that it represents.