Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Rules for military salutes often ignored

An integral part of military training, at least when I was in boot camp more than 30 years ago, was learning how to salute.

Saluting, the act of raising your right arm and touching your cap with the tips of your fingers, is a tradition in the military. In addition to enlisteds saluting officers, and officers saluting higher-ranking officers, when boarding a ship, I was told, you salute the flag, and then the officer of the deck – even if he or she is an enlisted person – and say, “Request permission to come aboard, sir.”

One time, when covering an event for The Bradenton Times, I was boarding a very small Coast Guard boat. Apparently, the rules were not being enforced because I was the only one to stand to attention at the flag, then stand at attention to the petty officer in charge of the boat and request permission to come aboard. It was granted, and I explained why I did what I did.

Why didn’t I salute? Well, for one thing, I was not in a military uniform and on active duty. I was wearing a baseball hat, and the only correct time to salute is if you’re in the military and the only correct clothing item on your head when you are saluting is a military cap or utility hat. Sure, you can salute at other times, and wearing pretty much anything on your head, but it doesn’t really count.

I recall that one time at Parris Island a Marine recruit rendered a “Boy Scout” salute to an officer and was reprimanded. “Salute like a man!” the officer said.

I never failed to salute an officer, but one time I did get chewed out because I failed to notice that a car coming toward me on the road had an officer’s sticker, and then I was adjusting my “pisscutter” cap. The officer, a colonel, screeched to a halt, jumped out of the car and yelled, “Private, what the hell kind of salute was that?” I saluted, apologized and explained what happened. Nonetheless, he was pissed off at me and warned me to pay attention to the cars coming by.

Interestingly, if you’re in a car you’re not supposed to salute. Officers would usually just nod their head or wave if you saluted them.

Some services have different rules for saluting. For example, in the film “A Few Good Men,” the Marines are shown saluting uncovered and indoors. Soldiers in the Army can salute that way, but Marines who are not under arms – wearing a cartridge belt (and thus wearing a cover) and carrying a weapon – do not salute indoors. If you are under arms, you do salute officers.

In the film “The Last Castle,” civilians may not have understood the fact that the prisoners salute each other and superiors. Military prisoners do not salute because they do not have that right. Thus, a salute – as in the film – is a very severe form of defiance to authority.

A common newspaper photo is a former military person saluting. I saw one recently, and it was disgusting because it was so obviously a posed photo. She was not covered – a violation of the saluting protocol – and not in a military uniform. Saluting in civilian clothing is not saluting, and while it may look “military,” it’s not.

Among a series of pictures taken at a recent “God and Country” event was a shot of man wearing a civilian ballcap and saluting during “God Bless America.” Wrong, wrong, wrong.

At my cousin Angelo’s funeral, which included military honors, when the bugler played taps, I stood at attention and did not salute since I was not on active duty, was not wearing a military uniform and was not wearing a cap.

I know I’m going against the tide here, but a little understand of saluting etiquette would go a long way.


November 28, 2011 - Posted by | Life lessons, Living in the modern age | , , , , ,

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