GREAT FALLS — Every day at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, the national anthem plays over the speaker system at 4:30 p.m. and the United States flag is lowered from its perch overlooking the base and the city.
The Seibel Soccer Park, where the Great Falls High and CM Russell teams play the majority of their home games, is directly across the street from MAFB. And every day at practice, the Bison and Rustlers stop whatever they’re doing, face east with their hands over their hearts and stand at attention.
Tuesday afternoon, as the Bison girls were hosting Butte in a Class AA playoff game, the anthem played at 4:30 p.m. just like it does every day. In the middle of the 1-0 game in Great Falls, both teams stopped. The head referee stopped the play clock for a minute as teams paid their respect to the flag.
And then the game resumed.
According to CMR girls coach Willie Pyette, it’s a tradition that started two years ago when he took over the Rustler program and moved practice to Seibel. It’s not meant to be a political statement but a sign of respect to the servicemen at Malmstrom and beyond.
“I have our team stop, stand at attention and honor the anthem,” Pyette told MTN Sports. “Then we go back to practice. We all stand and show respect.”
It’s a unique tradition that will continue for as long as soccer games are played in the afternoon at Seibel Soccer Park.