It happens every morning in virtually every time zone at U.S. military installations around the world. The brief ceremony, while undertaken with utmost formality and respect, rarely captures the attention of an entire base.
This time it did.
More than a hundred service members and civilians gathered outside the headquarters building of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, to honor the raising of the national flag and celebrate the rededication of the MarForPac flagpole here, Feb. 6.
“Raising the colors on a daily basis at camps and bases and stations around the world reminds us of the fact that freedom is not free,” said Col. Brent S. Willson, commanding officer of Headquarters and Service Battalion, MarForPac, adding that the flagpole rededication provided a nice setting for a collective moment of reflection.
“It’s nice to be able to take a few minutes, while we’re paying respect, to think about what freedom means to each of us,” he said.
The old flagpole, which was erected more than 56 years ago, had started to rust internally. It was taken down and replaced with a new one, forcing a two-week hiatus of morning and evening colors ceremonies aboard Camp H.M. Smith.
The command made up for the break with fanfare not typical of a flag raising at the base. Along with a sizeable formation of Marines and Sailors, the MarForPac Band performed an array of familiar military musical arrangements. The band also played the national anthem, providing a harmonious backdrop as Marines raised the flag.
“I think they made the ceremony,” said Sgt. Luke D. Madsen, supply administration chief for Headquarters and Service Battalion, MarForPac. “[Having the band play] adds that sense of meaning.”
Madsen also serves as the MarForPac’s color sergeant, and led the small detail of Marines who hoisted the flag during the morning colors ceremony.
"I’ve probably raised the colors 60 or 70 times,” said Madsen, “There are a couple of ceremonies that really hit home with me.”
The flagpole rededication was one of them.
“I’ve had the chance to raise the flag on the (USS Arizona Memorial), and now this one ranks right up there with it,” he added. “Starting a new chapter for MarForPac, and showing that we’re moving forward … I think it matters.”