Tuesday, July 07, 2009


The Flag Retreat ceremony begins with the Disneyland’s All-American Collegiate Marching Band.

The 15 or 20 young instrumentalists in red, white and blue uniforms march into Town Square while playing a patriotic march. (As I write this, I’m sadly not remembering some of the musical selections or even the specific order of things since I didn’t take notes. I was too busy enjoying the ceremony and participating in it.) They gather first at the north side of the circle and then process around it to the south side while playing “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

Then the Dapper Dans are introduced. Yay! I hadn’t seen them on this trip. With the band, they perform a medley of songs about America. They are good.

After the medley, the announcer says that the different songs from the five branches of the American armed forces will be played, and invites anyone who has served or is serving to come stand at the flagpole circle when their anthem is played. Wonderful.

Through the anthems, a handful of people, mostly older, approach the circle, and the gathered crowd applauds wildly for each in turn. When the Coast Guard hymn plays – looking around, I may be the only one who knows the words – I’m always fearful that there won’t be anyone, since it is the country’s smallest military branch. I’m a bit partial to the USCG, since my late brother Greg served with them for ten years as a radioman. Thankfully, one clean cut young man, pretty obviously still active, steps forward.

Now it’s time for the lowering of the colors. An honor guard of three uniformed Disneyland security officers marches into the circle. One man steps up towards the flagpole, but before reaching for to untie the flag’s rope, he turns to the military veterans and one active member on his left and says firmly, “Thank you for your honored service to our country” and salutes them. I’m misting up – I love it when people recognize the sacrifice of our military – as the officer turns and does the same for the men and women standing to his right.

The rope is untied, and as the flag is lowered, the band strikes up “Stars and Stripes Forever.” I’m singing along – again, probably the only one here who knows the words. (Or knows that there are words.) Fortunately for the crowd here, the band’s volume effectively drowns out my solo.

After the flags are down and removed, another song is played for their folding. And finally, to conclude the ceremony, we are all invited to join with the Dapper Dans and the band in singing “God Bless America.”

The officers, the Dans, and the band then march away towards the train station and the Flag Retreat is ended. Wow. It was a good old-fashioned lovefest for our flag, our military, and our country. You don’t see those very often any more, and it happens here every single day. God bless Disneyland for keeping the tradition going.

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