Saints and Heroes
Folding the US Flag

The Power of The Hand Salute

Soldier Salutes

I’ve known many Enlisted guys who hated to salute officers. They would duck out of the path of an oncoming Officer or go completely out of their way to avoid saluting one.

This was not the case for me.

Early in my enlistment and before going to Vietnam, I was returning from the laundry with my clean starched Utilities, when suddenly a Brigadier General appeared in my peripheral and heading in my direction. I had both hands full so I gave way and came to attention, but I didn’t Salute.

A little while later the SGT Major flagged me down and read me the riot act for not saluting the general. After a major chewing, the SGT Major told me something that stayed with me the rest of my Enlistment.

The SGT Major said "I know saluting can sometimes be a pain but look at this way and Saluting will become very enjoyable".

"As an Enlisted man, you are required to Salute all officers, regardless of rank or branch of service".

"The regulation requires that an Officer return every Salute, in the same manor as presented. If an enlisted person does not feel as though the returned salute was appropriate based on regulation, you can require another exchange".

"This places you, the Enlisted Man, in control of every Salute exchange, the snappier your Salute is, the snappier the Return Salute has to be".

I thought about this for a while and it made sense. From that point on, I really enjoyed Saluting officers.

When I became an MP, I developed a sort of “Wave through Salute System” for traffic duty. It was a sure fire system whereby you could keep the proper traffic flow and at the same time never miss saluting an Officer.

It was your basic wave through except I would bring my hand up and finish with a salute.

I had everyone saluting me, Sailors, Officers Wives, Officers Kids, even civilian base workers.

When the civilian workers initiated their first “Sentry of the Month” program, I received the honors.

My best advice to the Active Duty Marines is to Salute sharply and Salute often.

The Hand Salute is the Enlisted persons most powerful tool for both showing and commanding respect.

I Salute you all

Semper Fi,


When the songs are arranged in a medley format, it is protocol to present them in order of junior to senior service, as follows:

United States Coast Guard: "Semper Paratus"
United States Air Force: "The Air Force Song"
United States Navy: "Anchors Away"
United States Marines: "The Marine Corps Hymn"
United States Army: "As the Army Goes Rolling Along"

The Hand Salute
The hand salute is a gesture of respect toward an officer and the flag or our country. More than an honor exchanged, it is a privileged gesture of esteem and trust among soldiers.

Some historians believe the hand salute began in late Roman times when assassinations were common. A citizen who wanted to see a public official had to approach with his right hand raised to show that he did not hold a weapon. This practice gradually became a way of showing respect and, in early American history, sometimes involved removing the hat. By 1820, the motion was modified to touching the hat; later, it evolved into the hand salute used today.

The salute is widely misunderstood outside the military. Some consider it a gesture of servility, since the junior extends a salute to the senior. In fact, it is an expression of mutual respect. The fact that the junior extends the greeting first is merely a point of etiquette a salute extended or returned makes the same statement.

How to salute: Turn your head and eyes toward the person or flag.
Bring your right hand up to the correct position in one smart motion without any preparatory movement.
Raise you hand until the tip of your forefinger touches the outer edge of your eyebrow (just above and to the right of your right eye).
When wearing headgear, the forefinger touches the headgear slightly above and to the right of your right eye.
Your fingers are together and straight, and your thumb is snug along the hand in line with the fingers.
Your hand, wrist and forearm are straight, forming a straight line from your elbow to your fingertips.
Your upper arm (elbow to shoulder) is horizontal to the ground.
When dropping the salute, bring your hand directly down to its natural position at your side. Any improvising in the salute is improper.

When to salute: All soldiers are required to salute when they meet and recognize persons entitled (by grade) to a salute, except when it is inappropriate or impractical (in public conveyances such as planes and buses, in public places such as inside theatres or when driving a vehicle).

A salute is also rendered:

When the United States National Anthem, "To the Color," "Hail to the Chief" or foreign national anthems are played.
To uncased National Color outdoors.
On ceremonial occasions such as changes of command or funerals.
At reveille and retreat ceremonies, during the raising or lowering of the flag.
During the sounding of honors.
When pledging allegiance to the U.S. flag outdoors.
When turning over control of formations.
When rendering reports.
To officers of friendly foreign nations.

Salutes are not required when

Indoors, except when reporting to an officer or when on duty as a guard.
Addressing a prisoner. Saluting is obviously inappropriate.
In these cases, only greetings are exchanged. (Example: A person carrying articles with both hands, or being otherwise so occupied as to make saluting impracticable, is not required to salute a senior person or return the salute to a subordinate.)
Either the senior or the subordinate is wearing civilian clothes (a salute in this case is not inappropriate, but is not required.) Officers of equal rank pass each other (a salute in this case is not inappropriate, but it is not required.)

Any military person recognizing a need to salute or a need to return one may do so anywhere at any time.

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