On our last day at Disneyland this October we ended up in the right place at the right time - serendipity is big at Disney - to witness the incredible Flag Retreat Ceremony at Town Square. This ceremony happens each afternoon as the American Flag is lowered, folded and safely stored until morning when it is raised again. It’s an emotional experience - for the values it represents, the gravitas of the ceremony and the involvement and recognition of America’s veterans. I wish we had something like this in Australia.
Although the flag raising and lowering ceremonies happen every day, they’re not very well known, and visitors to Disney are missing an amazing event and opportunity to be part of something really special. Make sure to see at least one when you're next at Disneyland.
It was 4.30 pm and after a long day riding, laughing and bursting with joy, we stopped at Disney’s Town Square for a little rest. We didn't know that the All American Collegiate Band, dressed in white and marching in formation, had begun its procession along Disneyland’s Main Street, past the shops and cafes, the movie theatre, fruit stands and decorated windows. until we heard it approaching. The Band marched towards where we were seated and took position in front of a small crowd in the centre of Main Square, surrounding the flagpole that was flying both the American Flag and Californian State Flag.
It continued playing cracking military songs, loud and strong, while the small crowd watched and listened, and soon began the official service songs of the armed forces American Service Divisions, and the mood changed from jaunty to sombre.
I noticed a man silently moving through the crowd towards the flagpole, he continued until he reached its base, and stopped. Another man moved forward, and another. One by one, as each Service song was played, men and women who had served their country in each armed forces division weaved their way through the crowd to stand at the base of the flagpole, under the American Flag, and were recognised with applause from the crowd.
With each anthem, more veterans stood and joined their fellow servicemen and women to salute their flag. I could feel their pride. I could see the bond they had with each other, even though they were strangers.
The older man dressed in a white Disneyland uniform who, minutes before, had been sweeping the popcorn Emmie spilt on the ground walked slowly up, shook the hands of the men standing near him and stood to attention.
A women dressed in a colourful Disneyland uniform strode through the crowd to take her position, shaking hands with the men and women as she arrived in the centre of the Square.
An old man with shaking legs and a focussed determination leant on a cane as his jagged steps took him closer to the Flag.
A young man in shorts and a singlet joined the older men, his back noticeably straightening as he stood to attention next to them.
These strangers, these veterans with the common bond that comes form serving their country, shook hands, hugged, acknowledged each other - and were acknowledged by the crowd.
When the service songs had been played and all the veterans had come forward, the Band played the Star Spangled Banner, the national anthem of America. With hands on hearts and salutes from the servicemen and women, the crowd joined in, singing loud and strong and applauding at the end of the anthem.
“We are proud to honour the men and women who have served our country. Disneyland thanks you,” said the Conductor.
The flag was lowered in silent ceremony, and folded for its night of solitude. The band disappeared. The older gentleman in white picked up his dustpan and continued sweeping, the woman turned and resumed her duties, the young man walked away with his family and the old man with the cane slowly lowered himself onto a bench.
I wiped the tears from my cheeks.
Friendship, respect, mateship and looking after one another. The foundation of Disneyland.