Friday, November 17, 2017

Whose broad stripes and bright stars

Late yesterday afternoon, I was walking into base on my way to Sound of Music when I heard a sound familiar to anyone who has spent time on a military base - evening colors. At the moment of sunset every evening, the bugle sounds the “Attention” signal and the national ensign is lowered as the national anthem is played, following which the bugle plays the “Carry On” signal. Everyone who hears it, including those in cars, is expected to stop and stand (or sit in the car) at attention for the duration. In the absence of a live band, which is the case on our base, “Retreat” is played instead of the national anthem. (For morning colors, at 0800, “To the Colors” is traditionally played instead of the anthem when there is no band, but our base does play the national anthem regardless.)

I don't get to hear this every day. I'm usually inside or not even on base at sunset - they don't play it in our housing detachment. But when I do hear it, I definitely stop, turn in the direction where I think they're lowering the flag, and stand at attention. I'm actually quite fond of this tradition, even if it slows me down to wherever I'm heading.

Yesterday, however, was a little different. Instead of entering base through my usual route (Womble Gate), I had entered through main gate, as I had an errand to run on that side. So when colors started and I instinctively turned to face the direction the flag, I found myself looking directly at the flagpole on Command Hill (base headquarters) and watching the flag (actually three flags - admiral's flag, Japanese flag, and American flag - lowered in that order) being lowered. Up until this point, I'd always just kind of guessed there was a flag there, but there were a bunch of buildings in the way. They also lower the flags at the hospital and on any ships in port.
Flagpole at Ikego

It was a touching sight, and one I can now think of any other time I'm caught outside during colors, wherever I am. It's really interesting to be living on a military base, especially this one. The Yokosuka base was a Japanese base for close to a hundred years before the United States took it over, so there is history all over and a long tradition of service to Japan and, now, the United States. Commodore Matthew Perry first arrived in Yokosuka in 1853 when it was just a small fishing village, which initiated the opening of Japan to the West. The command to invade Pearl Harbor was broadcast from what we now call Weather Hill. Yokosuka was vital to the United States during the Korean and Vietnam wars. And that's just the start of it. I love living here and learning about it, and colors is the perfect time to reflect on that.
US Naval Hospital Yokosuka


Giggles said...

We've had our windows open recently and I've heard them lowering the flag at 5:00 sharp at the air force base several miles from here. It's comforting. They did the same thing at 5:00 at BYU too.

AmandaStretch said...

I also remember colors at BYU!