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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