The base we are leaving tomorrow morning is actually an Air Force Base and an Army Base that touch each other on nearly all sides and a Naval Base that is within spitting distance. Our housing has Army and Air Force, and I saw two Marines who moved in recently.
The only time I really notice that there is a lot of humor in this situation is at 1700.
The commissary for both the AF Base and the Army Post is right at the fence line between the two bases. If you have lost your mind and decide to go shopping between 1630 and 1700 (and we all sometimes have our brain fart moments), you get a special treat.
There you are, getting out of your car, list in hand (probably written on the back of a receipt, or maybe a square of toilet paper), thinking about how much you'd LOVE to nosh into a Cream Horn, when the National Anthem sounds.
Well, that's a normal state of affairs for the end of a day. At this point, stopping and putting your hand over your heart is a reflex action. And so is the irritation for those people who "forget" to do so, or who run into the commissary at the sounds of the first strains.
Anyway, the National Anthem ends. People start striding back to whatever business they were engaged in. You check your keys and toilet paper list and start towards the commissary at the other end of the parking lot when... Retreat sounds.
After over two years, I am now quite conditioned to expecting this, and usually stand wherever I was when the Anthem sounded waiting for the Army base to hit their reply. But what really cracks me up is watching the people who have never experienced this before - particularly Air Force people who aren't used to Retreat.
Yesterday I had the distinct treat of being behind an elderly retiree couple with Florida plates who stood very proudly with head held high at the playing of the National Anthem. The man, bless his soul, even took one hand off his walker to hold over his heart as he stood there - something that took an obvious amount of effort on his part. It was such a sweet scene.
As the song ended, the woman bustled over to help the man in the car and put his walker in the trunk. Suddenly, Retreat began to sound. The woman stopped what she was doing immediately and began to look around rather perplexed. The man stuck his head out of the car and said, "Well, what am I supposed to do now?"
After a few moments of the gentleman grasping the sides of the door, the woman seemed to figure out what was going on and dragged the folded walker over to his side of the car in a kind of stiff, "I'm walking, but I'm trying to do it while at attention" kind of gate. When she got there, the man grabbed her arm and pulled himself out of the car while holding onto the little old woman's arm. She tried to stiffly unfold his walker for him, and in the meantime, he stood as ramrod straight as he could manage and looked straight and unwaveringly at the flagpole.
She did not manage to get the walker unfolded while retreat was still playing, but just a few seconds after it ended, the man was standing next to the car, both hands on his scuffed walker, looking at his wife.
After a few moments he said, "Do you think it's safe to get in the car yet?"
Honestly, it was probably one of the cutest and most heart warming things I've ever seen.
I'm really going to miss this base.