Joan Bittner Fry

I particularly like this story. My Dad, Harold Bittner of Sabillasville, was a historian of sorts. He enjoyed picture taking. The photos above show his interpretation of the flag-lowering ceremony at Fort Ritchie in 1967. I can picture him walking toward the Fort Ritchie Castle, or headquarters, where the flag is usually flown at military posts. In the second photo, the smoke from the fired cannon is seen. After the flag was lowered, military personnel would retrieve the flag, finally catching and folding it and never allowing it to touch the ground. 

This was such a solemn and beautiful part of military life at Fort Ritchie and the community. On a clear day, the cannon could be heard for miles. This ceremony was performed at 4:30 p.m. each day.

A live soldier provided his rendition of “Taps,” and a bugle call played during official military ceremonies when the ceremony was finished. 

When I worked at Fort Detrick, I would walk from the parking lot to my office each morning at 6:00 a.m.  The flag-raising ceremony wasn’t nearly as uplifting as the one Dad had recorded in 1967. A scratchy recording of “Réveille” would be played as the flag was automatically raised. “Réveille” is chiefly used to wake military personnel at sunrise.  The name comes from the French word for “wake up.” There were no military personnel in sight here.  However, I would pause, place my hand over my heart, and hope to be protected by God and the military another day. 

If you have an unserviceable flag, consider calling the Boy Scouts, the AMVETS, the American Legion, or one of their members, to see if they are holding a Flag Retirement Ceremony on or around Flag Day, June 15. They will take your worn out flag and respectfully retire it. These clubs and organizations hold inspiring ceremonies for retiring flags, and the public is invited.

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