The following is from a widely circulated e-mail regarding a suggestion by MajGen Vern Lewis, USA (Ret.) on his suggestion regarding saluting vice hand over heart....
I gathered some 16 of my old military friends who agreed to sponsor
a movement for Veterans to salute rather than place their hands over
their heart when honoring the flag, fallen comrades, and/or the
country. I have some from each of the four principal services. Three
of them were former Vice Chiefs or Assistant Commandants of their
services, and several were former CINC's.
We refer to saluting when we do the pledge to the flag, when the
National Colors pass or are presented, when the National Anthem or
honors are played, or when taps are played and firing squads or guns
render honors. We got MOAA magazine to ask veterans what they
preferred, hand over the heart or saluting. When last I looked, some
583 veteran respondents had voted 81% in favor of the salute. In
addition, my email address was in the questionnaire and I've had
about 150 responses, with all but a dozen or so in favor of the
salute. Obviously an overwhelming majority of the veterans want to
There are no regulations telling us veterans what we can and can't
do in this matter. If we decide we want to salute, who will dare to
tell us "no"?
It is a matter of personal choice. We've earned the right to render
a salute. Now the challenge is to get the word out. I believe the
unit and branch associations are the best way. The commanders of the
American Legion and VFW never answered my emails, presuming they
even got them. If we can get this started it will take on a life of
its own. Those who object can continue the hand over the heart
thing. Gradually the custom will change, as well it should.
Just imagine thousands of fans saluting at NFL, MBA, and Major
League Baseball games when the National Anthem is played. It will
telegraph a message to all others of how many have served this
country in the Armed Forces---it will be a positive and patriotic
You can help by putting the word out in your organizations, which
are made up of patriots like you and me. Thanks, my friend.
I, personally, think this suggestion by MajGen Vern Lewis, USA (Ret.) is a good one. As he points out, there are no regulations regarding veterans and military retirees on this specific issue. It is a matter, therefore, of personal choice, and those still preferring the hand over the heart are not affected.
Those who bring up such things as various forms of civilain attire, naval personnel not saluting indoors/outdoors, covered/uncovered, etc. are confusing the issue that is very simple to begin with. Whether or not a salute would be appropriate in certain/all situations would obviously to be within the judgment of the individual.
General Lewis states, in part....
"There are no regulations telling us veterans what we can and can't do in this matter. If we decide we want to salute, who will dare to tell us "no"? It is a matter of personal choice. We've earned the right to render a salute. Now the challenge is to get the word out. I believe the unit and branch associations are the best way. The commanders of the American Legion and VFW never answered my emails, presuming they even got them. If we can get this started it will take on a life of its own. Those who object can continue the hand over the heart thing. Gradually the custom will change, as well it should."
I recall that in boot camp in 1952, we were instructed by one of our DIs, a corporal, on saluting. Among many other things, he pointed out that a salute was basically a form of military greeting, and that it was not uncommon for enlisted Marines to salute other Marines both well beyond the prescribed saluting distance, and in civilian clothes. I have since done so myself on many occasions.
By coincidence this comes up now as it has for a long time been my opinion that veterans, including retired military, should render the hand salute rather than placing their right hand over the heart, at least those desiring to do so. To the military man what could be more natural than saluting? Then, this being so for most, why do we just stand at attention, hand on heart, etc. while we really feel that we should be rendering the hand salute?
The answer is that we ASSUME that that is NOT the correct thing to do, not acceptable, against regulations, etc. NOT SO!, and General
Lewis makes that point clear in his email, above. Too often we assume things that are just not there, not so.
Gen Lewis' piece has been widely circulated on the Internet these last few days. His own poll on MOAA has shown responses overwhelmingly in favor of the hand salute over the hand over heart. Other messageboards, e-mails that I have viewed indicate the same.
Some do not understand that by many of us changing to the hand salute over the hand over heart would NOT then preclude those who wish to do so from continuing their preference of placing their right hand on heart. It is just NOT an either/or situation; each can read this information and decide to what he/she wishes to. Still others tend to make this simple and clear issue complicated by bringing up, for instance, naval personnel not saluting indoors, covered/uncovered, etc. None of these things affect the issue as stated by Gen Lewis; individuals will continue to use their best personal judgment in each case.
The main drawback in what Gen Lewis is attempting to do, I think, is in getting the word out to all veterans/retired miltary personnel. There is no organization behind this. But it has to be made clear that this suggestion of his does not constitute a change to any regulation at all. As he states, there is no regulation to begin with to preclude veterans.retirees from rendering the hand salute if we so choose! Those choosing the hand over heart are also free to do so.
So then, those of us who agree with the general, should make every effort to spread the word on this not just to individual veterans, but to military/veteran-related organizations.
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GnySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952 (Plt #437)--'72
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