Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for training as a cavalry scout. Everyone rotated through various extra duties, one of which was the color guard; six soldier who went to the post flag to see it raised or lowered. On a military base, this is a serious thing - a cannon is fired to warn everyone that they ought to be looking at the flag and then either taps or reveille is played, depending on the time of the day. If it is evening, "retreat" is played, and then the national anthem while the flag is lowered.
For a couple of weeks out of sixteen, every day at sunset, I stood and watched in the balmy August air as the colors were lowered. We were all young, tired, harassed, and didn't know which way was up for all the shouting - but at that moment in every day, each of our breasts swelled with love-of-nation and a sensibility of the gravity of what we were doing.
By the time the flag was carefully folded and taken to its box, fireflies were lighting the night, and the chaotic roar of daily life on an Army base had slowed to a...slightly less chaotic roar. We each returned to our barracks and duties and cares, but for that moment ...that long, thoughtful moment, we were not simply ourselves, but part of something far greater, far longer-lived.
And so I have felt, every time since, hearing "The Star Spangled Banner". I recognize my place also in the greater world than just America, and I reject the blinkered provincialism of jingoistic nationalists. But I love my country, I love the symbols that represent her, and I never fail to appreciate being reminded of what is good and noble about American life.