Navy Machinist Mate First Class Heath Maloon of Englishtown, right, blows a whistle as he and Navy Master at Arms Second Class Matthew Duggan, left, of Ocean Township lower the flag at Naval Weapons Station Earle Waterfront. (Tanya Breen / Asbury Park Press)
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MIDDLETOWN — It’s not rockets’ red glare. And there are no bombs bursting in air.
But some residents neighboring Naval Weapons Station Earle’s waterfront complex say the playing of the Morning Colors, a military protocol that includes playing the national anthem while raising the American flag, is too loud.
“Why should someone not in the service have to wake up to reveille?’” asked Bob Wille, who, along with some of his neighbors on 11th Street in Belford, has been asking officials at the naval station to turn down the volume.
Residents here said they started hearing the music in the spring or early summer and initially thought it was other neighbors.
Pat Horowitz said she called Middletown Police three times before she realized it was the base.
The cause of the neighbors’ consternation is a new emergency broadcast system that went into place this summer. The main purpose of the system is to alert those at the station in the event of an urgent matter, said Michael Brady, public affairs officer at Earle.
And with it, the base resumed playing over the system a military tradition that goes with raising and lowering the flag.
It’s a ritual every U.S. military installation worldwide follows to honor the flag. It begins at 8 a.m. with “Call to Colors” followed by “The Star-Spangled Banner” while the flag is being raised.
The two sailors who raise the flag then salute it until another call to “carry on” ends the ceremony.
At sunset, a similar ceremony, also with music, occurs to lower the flag.
The old address system had been broken for at least three years, which prevented the musical ritual from being played at the waterfront base, Brady said.
The base has heard mixed reviews from neighbors, some who love the new morning addition and others who think it’s too loud, he said.
Officials at Earle have been testing the system with sound meters in the Belford and Leonardo neighborhoods to adjust the volume to an appropriate level.
At least one of those sound measurements on 11th Street found the traffic along Route 36 and a helicopter that passed overhead to be louder than the sound of Morning Colors.
But since Thursday, no one has heard anything from the broadcast system. A wireless radio transmitter failed, and officials at Earle are waiting for a contractor to get the part to repair the system.
Once it’s repaired, staff at Earle will be tweaking the volume, Brady said.
“We are concerned about being a good neighbor,” he said. “It’s a balancing act of having it loud enough that people on the base can hear it without projecting beyond our fence.”
But the neighbors with concerns say they can hear the fanfare above the noise of traffic when they are in their homes.
Matt Di Benedetto said he’s lived near Earle for 29 years and had never heard the Morning Colors until the past few months.
“We’re only asking them to drop the volume. We’re not against anything,” he said.
Not all neighbors are bothered by patriotic songs over the speaker, regardless of the volume.
Andrew Lucina, a Korean War veteran who has lived on 11th Street in Belford for 55 years, said he looks forward to hearing the music each day and doesn’t feel sorry for those who might be sleeping at that time.
“Play it as loud as they want,” he said.
“I was willing to die for that flag,” said Lucina, pointing to the Stars and Stripes he flies in front of his house along with the prisoner-of-war flag. “I’m not going to complain about The Star-Spangled Banner.”
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