Thursday, June 30, 2011

Independence Day

The Fourth of July is a midsummer holiday weekend that is filled with parades, fireworks, picnics, ball games, and races. Americans are heading to the national parks, getting the boats and water skis out and, of course, celebrating what the holiday is all about in the first place.

It marks the anniversary of when the United States signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring our independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

At most public events this weekend there will be special events honoring our break to freedom some 235 years ago. It might be as simple as a recording of the National Anthem at the Saturday night jalopy races. Larger gatherings like Major League baseball games and the races at Daytona will have pre-event military-themed ceremonies honoring our country. We will honor our military people who have fought and died for our country, as well as our POWs, MIAs and our military on the job today, here and around the world. We will honor our veterans and the part they played in our country’s ongoing fight to live free.

Being a veteran myself I’m always up for these ceremonies and participating, even if it’s only rendering a hand salute to the colors.

The last few years I have been especially interested in who does the military hand salute when the National Anthem is played or when the flag passes in a parade, or taps are played and so on.

In 2008 President Bush signed a new flag code into law that allows veterans to salute during any of the above, whether in uniform or covered (a hat) or not. I support this 100 percent, but I’m not sure why it’s a law. Flag code must be the key word; otherwise, if it’s just a law, well, laws can be broken and you can be arrested. I can’t imagine an idiot buying a 20-star general’s hat at the army surplus and being arrested for saluting or not saluting the flag. Not in this country anyway.

As for the veterans saluting out of uniform, I think it should (as it is) be left up to the veteran. Whatever you are comfortable with. There is some debate on this, with plenty of folks on both sides. Personally, being a Navy vet I try to wear a ball cap with USN logo, American Legion cap or one I have from my Navy outfit. As some do, I feel a little uncomfortable saluting without being covered. I guess this would validate it.

As for me, all I have to do is attend or watch a major sporting event – Major League baseball for one – and notice all the people honoring the colors with the hand salute. Police and firemen in uniform, security guards and if there is a contingent of Boy Scouts there they will be saluting as well. Even for our presidents, although a couple of recent ones never served in the military, the president’s protocol dictates that he render a hand salute when boarding or leaving Air Force One. I’m sure there are other instances.

If it’s proper for all these folks to honor the flag with a hand salute, why in the world would there be any question as to whether the veteran is afforded this honor/privilege? Just to touch all the bases, I’m sure there are veterans out there who have worn police-firemen-Boy Scout-Security Guards uniforms as well as the G.I. issue.

Here’s my favorite memory of saluting, and I’m sure it wasn’t covered by any protocol. It came while attending a Veterans Day ceremony here at home. It was a few minutes before the program started, and several of us were outside standing around. We were near a very old man bent over, with Coke bottle glasses, wearing a ragged, baggy, World War II army uniform with sergeant’s stripes.

Also outside mingling through the crowd was a full Navy captain, immaculate in his dress blues, standing tall. Directly, he came to where the old man was and the old gentlemen stood up as straight as he could and saluted the captain. The captain quickly returned the salute and they spoke for a few minutes. I couldn’t hear what they said, but I did wish I had brought a camera.


  1. The last few years I have been privileged to spend a lot of time with Marines, both active duty and not. I've seen the same thing, over and over. I've seen aged Marines rise at the speed of dawn to as much attention as they can achieve as the Colors approach, as the National Anthem is played and, of course, when the Marine Hymn is played. The intensity of feeling is electric to all present - it can't be ignored. Not being a veteran, I've watched them to see how they stand and tried my best to copy it, out of respect for their sacrifices. Oorah, Cowpoke!

  2. David SatterfieldJune 30, 2011 at 9:21 PM

    Some people think that the military is only about killing people and breaking things. What they don't understand is those terrible things are done to defend a great and noble nation. Our enemies have proven time and again that when we fail to be vigilant, they will attack us.

    There is a brotherhood of arms that transcends cultural barriers. Serving the nation represented by the flag brings a man to something greater than himself. A salute to a nation that has delivered many from tyranny and continues to stand for liberty is a small gesture compared to the ultimate salute rendered by those who will forever remain soldiers.

    Those that hate this country have a loathing for themselves. It is they that will never achieve true greatness.

  3. Great post Bob. I am always taken a back by ceremonies such as you described. Thanks for sharing and thanks for serving our country.

  4. Nice post Bob. I am always taken a back by ceremonies such as you described. Thanks for sharing and thanks for serving our country.

  5. These stories, thoughts and emotions need to be told and retold to educate a new generation and to remind the rest of us. Most of us realize where we'd be if not for our veterans, and for the makers of the tough decisions. (We'd probably not be speaking English nor blogging our thoughts at will.) Thank you for the insight into the brotherhood of veterans, Bob. -- Danny Schnautz, Pasadena, TX

  6. Like you, Bob, I render the hand salute rather than the hand-over-heart civilian version. It is a privelage for those who have served, setting us apart and identifying us as members of the brotherhood of arms.

    As Bill Hudgins wrote, it is members of the Greatest Generation who, despite personal discomfort, invariably render honors to the Flag and to our Nation.

    By the way, I know Navy and Marine Corps personnel do not salute when uncovered. We from the Air Force and our parent service, the Army, had no such restrictions. The hand salute comes more comfortably to us.

    It would be nice to see the younger generations pay proper respect the way we old-timers were tought to do. But since the "me generation" of the '60s and '70s rejected many traditional values, the scenes described by Bill have become rare indeed.

    Perhaps our respect for American values will somehow inspire current youth. When they ask, "Why is he/she saluting like that?" someone will answer, "Because the are proud of our Nation and their service to it."

    Thank you, Bob, for your service.

  7. This is an outstanding blog. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.
    God Bless America, Our Home Sweet Home.


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