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Retreat, To the Colors and The Star Spangled Banner

Military brats grow up in a very patriotic environment.

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Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Third Grade Class Photo – 1962

Respect for God, country, and authority are learned at an early age. I’ve listened to many of my fellow military brats shared their childhood experiences.

Theirs were very similar to mine. One tale that always caught my attention concerned the lowering of the flag. At five P.M. or noon when only a half day’s work was scheduled, Retreat and To the Colors was performed over the post or base public address system. The bugle signaled the lowering, folding and securing of the flag of the United States of America for the night.

When the music started, cars stopped. Children playing outdoors would take an intermission from their afternoon’s fun, standing at attention. It was a serious, respectful time.

I learned about the United States flag from my father and as a Cub Scout and Boy Scout. My real education came from Mrs. Jensen. She told us about the War of 1812, Fort McHenry, and Francis Scott Key. Mrs. Jensen also taught us how to memorize. We first used the memory techniques she taught us to learn the verses of the Star Spangled Banner.

Her method was simple. On the four chalkboards in our classroom at Luke Air Force Base Elementary School were written the words or lyrics to Key’s anthem.

She had us read the entire verse, word for word. Next, she had a boy in the back of the room come to the chalkboard. She handed him an eraser instructing him to select a word, erase the word and place a line where the word had been.

The class read the Star Spangled Banner again replacing the deleted word. This continued over and over until we had a chalk board with only blank lines and the anthem memorized.

Years later I used the same technique to teach fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade children to memorize Bible verses.

Every time I hear Retreat and To the Colors, I still stand at attention. Scouts and my father taught me about the United States flag. Mrs. Jensen told this military brat the story of the Star Spangled Banner and learned me how to memorize.


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