Discovering American Pride in Italy

Every day, like clockwork, at 4:45 pm, “The Big Giant Voice” amplifies across the Aviano Air Force Base with retreat, a song signalling the end of the day and time for the flag to come down for the night. Cars that were once sticking strictly to the posted speed limit, slowly come to a halt, and people—young and old—pause wherever they’re standing outside. You’ll see a few stragglers hurry inside a building, not wanting to be caught outside—no matter the weather, but for the most part, everyone respects this moment.

The music begins playing, first with the Italian national anthem. It’s an upbeat song that I’ve grown to love since being here. Occasionally I’ll glance around me and notice an Italian singing along. Those in uniform stand at attention with straight backs, arms down by their sides and their hands in fists. Listening to Il Canto degli Italiani always reminds me of where I am. It’s so easy to forget you live in Italy, especially when you’re on base, but that song jolts me back to reality that I’m not at home. We are on their land and I respect that.

Taken years ago; featured in this post.

Moments after the Italian anthem is over, The Star-Spangled Banner blares over the speaker. Immediately you see civilians place their hand over their heart, and those in uniform dutifully salute the flag. My heart swells every time I hear our national anthem. It reminds me that even though I’m living in Italy, I’m American and so proud of that fact. I’m thankful for the opportunity the military gave us by bringing us out here. 

I’d be lying if I said I never get emotional with the daily tradition, but I do; I hold back the tears while I hold my head high and place my hand over my heart. I know most people roll their eyes and get annoyed with retreat for interrupting their afternoon, but it’s comforting to me. My version of America for the past two years has been in the form of this Air Force base. My friends have all been military spouses, seeing their husbands and wives come and go from deployments and TDYs. My life has been learning to live in this country and embrace Italy. So when I hear our national anthem, I fill with pride…and sometimes tears, for the country that I call home.

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