No I Didn't Write Him Up

No I Didn't Write Him Up

Ah, the military salute. Why is it such a thorn in so many people’s side? According to the Guidebook for Marines ( May 1, 1966 edition), on page 20 it says: Courtesy is the accepted form of politeness among civilized people. Courtesy smoothes the personal relationship among individuals in all walks of life. Civilian rules of courtesy are generally applicable to the military life. However, military courtesy has developed certain special forms of politeness and respect which you as a Marine must be thoroughly familiar with and must practice. The most important of all military courtesies is the salute. This is an honored tradition of the military profession throughout the world. The salute is a custom that goes back to earliest recorded history. It is believed to have originated in the days when all men bore arms. In those days warriors raised their weapons in such a manner as to show friendly intentions. They sometimes would shift their weapons from the right hand to the left and raise their right hand to show that they did not mean to attack. Just as you show marks of respect to your seniors in civilian life, military courtesy demands that you show respect to your seniors in the military profession. That, plain and simple, is the history of the military salute and why the junior initiates the salute and the senior returns it. The salute has always only been intended to be a sign of courtesy and respect, not a sign of subservience. To repeat a phrase above, it is an honored tradition of the military profession. Courteous civilians say hello, nod, smile, or wave, when they meet, but only military people get to give and return each other a snappy salute. And it would be as much a discourtesy for a senior not to return a salute as it would be for the junior not to render it. When I enlisted in the Marines in December of 1966, it was my intention to apply for the Enlisted Commissioning Program as soon as I could. After that expecting one day to be an officer myself. I made it a point to render to every officer I ever encountered (yes, even the jerks) the snappiest salute I could come up with. Later, after I earned and received my commission as a second lieutenant in February of 1968, I made it a point to return every salute I received with just as much snap. But never once did I feel I owed someone a salute nor did I feel someone owed me one. As a military man, it was simply a courtesy I was proud to be able to render. What few times I encountered an enlisted person (or a junior officer, as I advanced in rank) after that who failed to render me a salute, I generally ignored the incident unless I was familiar enough with the person to know that the discourtesy truly was intended to be an insult and was not just an oversight. By doing that, I never gave some old salt (who had clearly forgotten the history and tradition of the military salute) the opportunity to say and gloat, Lieutenant/captain/general, I don’t owe you s**t! The best salute I ever gave to anyone, though, was the one I gave to my son upon his graduation from MCRD-SD in September of 2000. He just looked at me and blushed and forgot to return it. (No, I didn’t write him up.) Larry Quave a proud enlisted and commissioned Marine, ’66-’71

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11 comments


  • Robert Lowe

    In a few years, I will be 30 years retired after my 30 years in (60-90). And with mostly reserve status, I always felt proud to be recognized as “squared away” when arriving at a new duty assignment whether it for two weeks or two months. Our heritage of respect is brought out in the phrase “Best friend, worst enemy” and it is regularly acknowledged in the civilian world. I wish more people when meeting another sister or brother would lift their eyes, would smile, or offer some form of greeting and show that we all one and should offer respect and expect it in return. ~ And, it just feels good when the Gate Guard at the nearby world’s largest C-130 training base says, “Have good day, Sergeant Major”.


  • Robert Dickerson

    I always thought we Marines had the sharpest salutes. This was reinforced one day when I found myself on an U.S.A.F. base where I rendered the typical smart salute and was returned with the sloppiest flopping around of the hand I had ever seen. Some officers didn’t even return my salute. That day I became convinced that the Air Force only pretends to be a military service.


  • Edward L. Dodd

    As a 1st Lt I was sent to Wheel & Tracked Vehicle Maintenance School at Ft. Knox, KY. This was in 1959. The schooling was great in that we had only 9 officers in the class designed for over 100. One day I was in utilities walking down the sidewalk when I was approached by an Army enlisted. He passed me by, looking right at me, and did not render a salute. I called him back and asked why. He replied, “You’re no Army Officer.” Then for the next few minutes I responded by explaining I was a U.S.Marine Corps officer and by damn he had better brakes his are at 30 paces, or I’d do it for him. By the time I finished explaining to him that this is a sign of respect for my uniform, not for me. Anyway, when I was finished he smartly saluted and I returned his salute and we parted. I doubt if he will ever forget the day he met a Marine Officer.


  • Rudy Romo

    C’mon, Larry, I bet you bust his chops every now and again about that forgotten salute. I know I would. Awesome that you offered it, sir.


  • C. Stoney Brook

    There are several scenes in the movie ‘Patton’ where George Scott (portraying General Patton) returns salutes by making a half-hearted gesture – not a salute, just a wave – using his riding crop. Certainly no true military officer would be so flippant about returning a rendered salute from a subordinate with such a gesture. As a fellow Marine with me observed during the film, “It figures he salutes like a jerk; it’s a frickin’ Doggie. He wouldn’t make a pimple on Chesty Puller’s rump.” Whomever served as advisor on the movie should be ashamed.


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