What BYU will do for the red, white and blue

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Twice a day on campus it is not uncommon to see hoards of people standing still with their hands on their heart.

The national anthem is played Monday through Friday at 7:30am and 5:30pm. As the colors are raised and retired in front of the ASB (Abraham Smoot Building). Students have various reactions to this tradition at BYU, ranging from thoughtful ponderance to ignoring the event.

Two men take down the flag infront of the ASB at 5:30 as the National Anthem plays in the background. Photo by Ari Davis
Two cadets take down the flag in front of the ASB as the National Anthem plays in the background. Photo by Ari Davis

“I always stop and turn toward the flag or where I think it would be,” said Emily Goehring, a BYU student from Virginia, who has also been present at the retiring of the colors. “I put my hand over my heart and just stand there and listen to it. I see some students who stop and do the same. I see a lot of students pretend like it isn’t happening and they walk past.”

Flag etiquette dates back to 1942 when the Federal Flag Code was established, but on BYU campus there are mixed thoughts on the procedure. Travis Meservy, a company commander of the Army ROTC at BYU, said while it is not necessary to stop, it is still polite to pause and take a moment of silence for the national anthem.

“If you’re outside of the audience that is being addressed then you are not necessarily required to pay your respects, but this is addressing the whole campus,” Meservy said. “Speakers are all over campus. … If you can hear the music then it is appropriate to stop what you are doing … and still pay your respects.”

The proper protocol for the raising and lowering of the flag on BYU grounds is not stated on signs throughout campus, but there is a proper etiquette for this procedure.

“The appropriate etiquette is to stop what you’re doing, face the flag or direction of the music, and then the proper salute is hand over the heart,” said Joseph Clark, a civil engineering major and the Cadet Command Sergeant Major for BYU ROTC. “And if you’re wearing (a hat), as a man, you take that off and place it over your heart.”

The majority of students stop when the music begins. However, some don’t because they are not paying attention, don’t want to or because they aren’t aware of the proper etiquette.

But for some, that is a time for students to pause and reflect on how they’re here at BYU.

“I am so thankful I live in this free country,” Goehring said. “I can be on this campus in a religious school and not feel like I am being persecuted. … That 60 seconds that the anthem plays for, it is nice to me because it is something that we should all be forever grateful for, but it is not something that we always think about.”

The raising and retiring of the colors is not only a good reminder, but is also is a way to give thanks to the service rendered for our country.

“I think of the great freedoms we enjoy in our country and the benefit we receive from living here. … That is why I am willing to serve the country and serve in the armed forces,” Meservy said. “Not everyone has to serve in the armed forces, but as a show of the appreciation for your country it is proper to honor the national colors.”

The flag ceremony on BYU campus is not just tradition; the flag itself represents the freedom of our country.

“For all the problems we have, we are so absolutely unique and remarkable in the world. The flag represents the values the country was founded on,” Clark said. “It doesn’t necessarily represent the current decisions being made or the current people in office. And it never has. … The flag represents the values of the country. It represents the heritage of the country.”

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