The audience settles and there is silence. Six teenagers in uniform march into the auditorium. Four each hold a flag, but the focus is on the American flag as it is raised. Everyone stands and the National Anthem begins to play.
On February 14 ROTC opened the ceremony for the Hispanic Heritage Forum at the George R. Brown Center for the fourth year in a row. Usually, each high school in the district takes a turn providing their ROTC to open the ceremony, but each year the Hispanic Heritage Forum has specifically requested these cadets for the six-man color guard routine.
“It’s a major event. It ranges every year from 16-20,000 people,” Mr. Valasquez said. “ROTC is highly visible and it’s an honor for them to do this ceremony because normally what they do is they rotate high schools, but they like what they do. They like their organization so they’ve been invited. That is an honor for them.”
The more formal six-man color guard differs from the usual four-man count, which requires two rifles and the American and Texan flags, two additional flags are used: the Air Force flag and the school flag. For the routine, the cadets line up to the side of the auditorium before marching out in a flanking movement toward the stage. They then march to the middle of the stage, halt, move up to the front to face the audience and present the flags before posting the American flag. All members of the audience stand to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem is played. After this the cadets march off the stage to stand at the side.
“The Hispanic Heritage Forum is one of the few six-man counts that we do,” sophomore Megan Weber said. “I wanted to continue doing it because last year I did every color guard available and I just love being a part of it.”
The cadets usually set aside about three days a week to practice the color guard routine, not just for the Hispanic Heritage Forum but also for their regular competitions. Although prepared and ready, traffic on the way to the George R. Brown Center was heavy this year. The blockage, which went on for several miles, forced the cadets to run late in showing up for the ceremony because the vehicle carrying the flags and rifles became separated. However, this proved to be no problem.
“I think that my cadets performed admirably under the conditions,” senior Jordan Barker said. “We were under a lot of stress on that day, but they performed well. I’m proud of them.”
Cadets can volunteer to be in the color guard every year, but some, like Jordan, one of whose jobs is to supervise the color guard, are required to. Megan is a commander of color guards, but she was still eager to volunteer for the Hispanic Heritage Forum.
“The best part of this color guard is being respected by the people watching,” sophomore Megan Weber said. “It shows that people still care enough to put their hand over their heart over the National Anthem.”