Caretakers of the Colors


Part 1: A Background Story


Part 2: Original English Version: September 24, 1981

bulletPart 3: Published English Version: March 24, 1982 (6 months old)
bulletPart 4: Latin American Spanish Version: 1982
bulletPart 5: Pictures from 1981 and 1982
bulletPart 6: Speech by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur - May 12, 1962 at West Point


A Background Story

In 1981 Allan was stationed at Fort Devens, Massachusetts.  He had chosen that place through reenlistment so that he could be close to his new found friends, the ministry of L'Abri, begun by Francis and Edith Schaeffer in the mountains of Switzerland.  A new American branch was opening in Southboro only a short drive from Fort Devens.  So it was because of L'Abri that he was there.

In April of 1981 Allan met and fell in love with Young Soon, the woman who would become his wife and mother of their children. The wedding was originally scheduled for the last Saturday in October. Then Allan came down on orders for the language school that he had wanted.  So the wedding date had to be moved up to the last Saturday in September which was the 26th.

As the wedding day approached Allan was very nervous -- scared is a better way to put it.  Then something happened.  Plans were announced for the upcoming anniversary of the Military Police Corps of which Allan was a part. Guess what day it was on??  It was Saturday the 26th, the same day as his wedding.  Chills went through his spine. Tears came to his eyes -- oh not tears of sadness, but tears of joy and thankfulness to the God that Allan serves.  It was like God saying, "Allan -- this is the right woman, the right time to be married, and oh yes, stay in the Army, in the Military Police Corps, and go to that Latin American Spanish school as your first assignment with your new bride."

It was from that joy, from that peace, and from that love, the joy, peace, and love that only God can give, that the words of Caretakers of the Colors flowed that 24th day of September, 1981.  The next day was the MP anniversary picnic and Allan was going to extend his term of service in a military ceremony.  He put the composition in a frame, and just before the ceremony he asked if it could be read. His Commander, Captain Walkington, read through it real quick and said, "I'll read it for you."  And so it was read. The ceremony took place. Then a framed copy was given to the Post Commander, Colonel Kattar, who was present for the anniversary picnic ceremonies.

The wedding took place on Saturday afternoon in the Main Post Chapel. Allan's Dad came up from Tennessee to do the ceremony.  The vows were from the book of Ruth and the story of Ruth and Boaz was shared with those in attendance. There was a wonderful reception afterwards and then it was off on a short honeymoon and then back to get ready to move to California.

Allan never really knew how much this composition meant to people in his unit until after he was at language school at Presidio of Monterey, California.  He received a copy of the newspaper from his best friend who had also been his Best Man at the wedding.  On page two was the composition, unedited, put there by his Commander.  Years later Allan found out from another sergeant from his old unit that every time a new MP came into the unit, he or she was given a copy of the composition.

Once Allan and his new bride were at language school, it was only a matter of time before Allan realized that he really needed to also have his composition translated to Latin American Spanish.  So he did the first rough draft and then he asked one of his professors at the school to edit it for him. Seņor Oguiza (pronounced O-gee'-tha) was the logical choice. The professor had become a close friend largely in part because he had started a Bible study in his house in Spanish and Allan was always there with several others.  And so the Spanish version of the composition was born.

About the same time that the Spanish version was finished Allan received an award. It was the Army Commendation Medal (First Oak Leaf Cluster) for achievement.  It had been initiated by that same Captain Walkington from his previous unit who had first read the composition in public and then had it published in the post newspaper. The award had finally made its way through channels and it was presented to Allan by the Deputy Commander at the language school.

In just about every unit that Allan was in after that, from Panama to Maryland to Honduras to Korea and finally at Fort Dix, New Jersey where he and his family retired from the military, the composition has found its way into MP anniversary ceremonies, either in written form or spoken word.

Now if someone has never been to a military base, especially an Army one, you may not understand what this composition is written around.  On most Army installations across the world it is the responsibility of the Military Police Corps to take care of the Flag.  At Fort Devens each morning there was Reveille which marked the first formation for soldiers for the day. Just before 6:30 A.M. the Patrol Supervisor and other Military Police would pick up the flag and the cannon round from the MP Station and drive over to the Main Post Flag Area.  The canon would be loaded with a blank round and the flag would be carefully hooked to the rope on the flag pole.  At exactly 6:30 A.M. the canon would be fired, a recording of the Reveille bugle music would be played and the flag would be raised. It had to be at the top of the pole at exactly the same time that the music ended. While the music was playing, and it could be heard all over post, anyone who was outside stopped what they were doing, turned in the direction, and saluted. When the music stopped everyone would go back to what they were doing.

In the afternoon there is the Retreat ceremony, marking the last formation of the day, and the lowering of the flag.  Again, the Patrol Supervisor and his or her Military Police assistants would drive to the flag pole just before 4:30 P.M.  The canon would have another blank round put into it by the Sergeant and the others would be ready at the rope.  At exactly 4:30 the first song was played. Everyone would again stop what they are doing and face the flag in the position of Attention. As soon as the first song ended, the canon sounded, the proper salute was rendered, and while the second song played, the flag was lowered, reaching the bottom of the pole exactly when the music ended. Everyone else would return to what they were doing. But it was the Military Police responsibility to fold the flag correctly and to then carry it back to the MP Station for the night. Oh yes, one more thing. In the morning, when the flag was taken from the MP vehicle, it was saluted by the Sergeant and marched in formation to the pole. In the afternoon it was marched back to the vehicle and saluted by the Sergeant as it was retired inside the vehicle.  Allan, many times, was the Sergeant. He also had the privilege of carrying the flag many times in parades and special ceremonies.

The flag can never touch the ground or it must be burned and replaced.  The flag should never be left uncared for to such an extent that the cloth becomes tattered. When that happens, again it must be burned and replaced.  There are also three sizes of flags on a military base.  The storm flag is the smallest and is used in inclement weather.  The post flag is twice the size of the first and is flown on normal days. The garrison flag is twice the size again and is flown on special days like the 4th of July.

The words "duty-honor-country" and "faith-hope-love" are never actually said at these flag ceremonies.  They are felt deep inside and they flow to the outside in everything soldiers do both in service to their country and in service to their God.  The best rendition of the meaning of "duty-honor-county" is by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in his farewell speech to the Corps of Cadets at West Point in May of 1962.  When you read that, try superimposing the words "faith-hope-love" over the words "duty-honor-country." However, and always remember this, the very best rendition of "faith-hope-love" is found in God's Word, from Genesis to Revelation, but especially as shown in the life, death, burial, resurrection, and soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The concept of the flag being a tapestry comes from Edith Schaeffer and her book entitled The Tapestry.  For without L'Abri and the Schaeffer ministry Allan would never have learned how all the pieces of his life fit together.  The marriage to his wonderful wife would never have happened as it did and Caretakers of the Colors would never have been written.  L'Abri and the Schaeffers teach that the correct Biblical worldview is the Lordship of Christ in ALL of our life, not just in those things we call "religious."  To love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul; to love your neighbor as yourself; and to love the brethren, our fellow heirs of the grace of God -- this is the living and breathing essence of the life of the Christian soldier, not just those who wear a uniform, but all those who would stand firm and proclaim in word and deed that Jesus is Lord.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and Caretakers of the Colors :-)

In the Lamb,
Allan L. Winger
Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Originally put on the internet October 1, 2000


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