SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
As Team Shaw heads home after a long day of work, retreat plays, announcing the end of the duty day.
At the sound of the first note, the base pauses -- vehicles stop in the street, people turn toward the music, and the base community pays respects to the red, white and blue of the United States.
The U.S. flag waves at the 20th Fighter Wing headquarters one last time before a team of Airmen begin to lower it. Two hands reach toward the sky to catch the stars and stripes, carrying out a tradition of respect for a symbol of freedom and opportunity.
After a 10-year hiatus, squadrons from across the 20th FW are again performing regular retreat ceremonies on base.
The detail is scheduled to rotate among squadrons monthly, giving Airmen the opportunity to participate in the ceremony on the fourth Thursday of the month.
“Tradition and heritage reminds us where we come from and how far we’ve come,” said Master Sgt. William Byrd, 20th Comptroller Squadron and 20th FW Staff Agencies first sergeant. “There’s a lot of rich history in the Air Force, and the military as a whole, and if we don’t uphold our traditions and bring back some of those heritage aspects, I think those things will go by the wayside.”
Senior Master Sgt. Arick Gray, 20th Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion flight chief and Shaw Top Three president, suggested bringing back the retreat ceremony to give Airmen an opportunity to pay respects to the flag at the end of the day and promote unit camaraderie.
“It gives us pause to reflect on the flag, what it means, and to pay respect to the people who have come before us and payed the ultimate sacrifice defending our country,” Gray said.
For some, participating in the ceremony was a reminder of their pride in their nation and their flag.
“The flag is a representation of everything that has been sacrificed for this country,” said Airman 1st Class Rodney Ruiz Jimenez, 20th FW Judge Advocate adverse actions paralegal. “Every time I see it, I feel proud to be an American.”
For others, the ceremony is a reminder of why they raised their right hand and swore an oath to protect the country.
“To me, it brings back the foundation of why we’re here and what we do,” said Master Sgt. Daryll Clark, 20th CMS aircrew egress systems section chief, who helped start the flag detail project. “It may mean something to me that it doesn’t mean to you based on your personal experiences in the military. It gives everybody an opportunity to reflect on what the flag means to them and once a month do it in a professional, standardized, organizational setting and to do it with their wingmen -- their brothers and sisters.”
When the flag rises again after the ceremony is completed, Team Shaw continues to serve beneath the colors, working together to protect the freedom it represents.