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Military Salute


There are many theories about the history and origins of the military salute, some dating back to Roman times and medieval Europe when knights would raise their visors to demonstrate that they were friendly. It’s uncertain where the military salute derived from, but it’s certain that the military salute is a required part of being in the military today.

Since the United States was formed as the men and women broke away from British rule, they carried many British customs over with them, one of those possibly being the military salute. Let’s examine the military salute, its history, and the rules and how-to’s of all things United States military salute.

History of the Military Salute

The military salute might have originated in the U.K., but we’re going to look at its origins in the United States. In early American history, the salute was sometimes accompanied or replaced by the removal of a hat or headdress. In British history, during the early 1800s, the constant removal of the hat was of great concern because it caused more wear and tear on the hat, which would mean more money to have to replace the hats. Instead, they were ordered to clap their hands to their hats and bow when passing someone by. For the British, this salute evolved to an open hand, palm to the front salute by the 19th century, and remains so to this day.

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The United States adopted a similar salute, but it fell more in line with the Royal Navy, the British naval force, in which the palm faced down, as opposed to out. The downturned palm was believed to be implemented because working on ships would cause very dirty hands. Showing a palm-facing-out dirty hand would be disrespectful so that’s how they adapted to the issue. The U.S. chose the palm facing down, which historians believed was inspired by the Royal Navy.

When To Use the Military Salute

The military salute isn’t just an exchange of honor, it’s a sign of respect to the work that each other has put into being a member of the United States military, and it’s also a prescribed regulation.

The military salute is often misunderstood by the public, and anyone not familiar with military customs. It can appear to be a sign of servility since the junior members of the military are saluting those with a higher ranking, but it’s a sign of recognition, and a sign of camaraderie because everyone in the military has put in effort and sacrifice. The higher-ranking member extends that respect back to the junior member. The fact that the junior member salutes first is just military etiquette.

According to the Army Regulations 600-25, there are times when a military salute is required. It states that “All Army personnel in uniform are required to salute when they meet and recognize persons entitled to the salute. Salutes will be exchanged between officers (commissioned and warrant) and enlisted personnel, and with personnel of
the Armed Forces of the United States (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard), the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service
entitled to the salute.”

The regulations go on to state that, “The junior person shall salute first. Accompanying the rendering of the hand salute with an appropriate greeting such as, “Good Morning, Sir” or “Good Morning, Ma’am” is encouraged. Personnel will not salute indoors except when reporting to a superior officer. The practice of saluting officers in official vehicles (recognized individually by rank or identifying vehicle plates and/or flags) is considered an appropriate courtesy and will be observed. Salutes are not required to be rendered by or to personnel who are driving or riding in privately owned vehicles, except by gate guards who will render salutes to recognized officers in all vehicles unless duties are of such a nature as to make the salute impractical. When military personnel are acting as drivers of a moving vehicle, they should not initiate a salute.”

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It is also in regulations that the president of the United States shall be saluted when personnel is in uniform. Although civilian personnel, including civilian guards, aren’t required to offer the hand salute to military personnel or other civilian personnel.

As far as military etiquette goes, salutes aren’t required to be given or returned when the senior or subordinate (or both) are in civilian clothing, engaged in routine work that the salute would interfere with, carrying thing in both hands which would make the salute impractical, working as a member of a details or engaged in a function that would present a safety hazard if the salute were rendered, in public places like churches and theaters, or in the ranks of a formation.

How To Do the Military Salute

The military hand salute is a one-count movement. It can be executed while marching, but only the soldier in charge of the formation salutes and acknowledges salutes. When wearing headgear with a visor, the protocol is to “sharply raise the right hand, fingers and thumb extended and joined, palm facing down, and place the tip of the right forefinger on the rim of the visor slightly to the right of the right eye. The outer edge of the hand is barely canted downwards so that neither the back of the hand nor the palm is clearly visible from the front. The hand and wrist are straight, the elbow inclined slightly forward, and the upper arm horizontal.”

When there isn’t headgear with a visor, everything is the same, “except touch the tip of the right forefinger to the forehead near and slightly to the right of the right eyebrow.

When reporting to or rendering courtesy to someone in the military, the salute is done without a command, and the person rendering it will simultaneously salute while turning the head and eyes towards the person being addressed. The salute is initiated by the subordinate when appropriate and finished once acknowledged.

Salutes In and Out of Formation

When in formation, salutes are only rendered or returned on the command of Present, ARMS. The person in charge of the formation is the only one to render or return a salute for the entire formation. When not information, when an Officer is approaching, a group of people not in formation is called to Attention by the first person to notice the approach of the Officer.

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According to regulation, “whenever and wherever the United States National Anthem, “To the Color,” “Reveille,” or “Hail to the Chief’ is played, at the first note, all dismounted personnel in uniform and not in formation face the flag (or the music, if the flag is not in view), stand at Attention, and render the prescribed Salute. The position of Salute is held until the last note of the music is sounded.

Military personnel not in uniform will stand at attention (remove headdress, if any, with the right hand), and place the right hand over the heart. Vehicles in motion are brought to a Halt. Persons riding in a passenger car or on a motorcycle dismount and salute. Occupants of other types of military vehicles and buses remain in the vehicle and sit at attention; the individual in charge of each vehicle dismounts and renders the Hand Salute. Tank and armored car commanders salute from the vehicle.” When the National Anthem is played indoors, all military officers and enlisted personnel stand at Attention and face the music or flag, if there is one present.

The military salute is an important part of the United States military behavior and image. It is a nonverbal communication between soldiers, it shows respect, and it also honors the work that each individual has contributed to the country.

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