A pyrotechnic device consisting of or incorporating a concussive report (loud explosion). A salute can be an aerial shell or ground-based; some salutes incorporate multiple reports, but the best ones are a simple hum-dinger crushing ba-BOOM to vibrate your lemonade.

Nobody knows for sure when the military tradition of saluting first got started. It’s quite possible that it originated with the knights of old as they passed each other and raised their right hands to lift their visors in greeting. Then again, some historians say that the tradition dates back to the ancient Romans. It seems that if you were a citizen and wanted to approach a public official, it was customary to do so with your right hand raised as an indication that you weren’t carrying a weapon.

These days, as it pertains to the United States military, the salute is more of a sign of respect for the rank rather than a exchange of greetings. The junior person in terms of rank will always offer up his or her end of the salute first. If you follow strict adherence, they should hold their salute until it is returned by the senior member that is being saluted.

Salutes are reserved for the following people.
  • The President of the United States
  • All Commissioned Officers and Warrant Officers
  • Any recipient of the Medal of Honor no matter what rank they might have attained
  • Officers from the armed forces of foreign countries only if those countries are deemed friendly to the United States.

    Enlisted personnel do not salute each other no matter where they are in the pecking order. That goes from the lowest ranking private to the highest ranking sergeant, it just isn’t done.

    Saluting is also deemed appropriate for the following occasions.

  • During the playing of the Star Spangled Banner and Hail to the Chief
  • During flag raising and flag lowering ceremonies. The tradition is that when colors are being played, each soldier will stop what they are doing, face the direction of the music and offer up a salute to the flag.
  • During military parades and the changing of commands
  • When the Pledge of Allegiance is recited but only when done so out of doors
  • When turning over the command of a military formation from one officer to another
  • When boarding or debarking a Navy ship

    Salutes are not required during the following:

  • When you’re indoors unless you’re formally reporting for duty or when you’re on guard duty
  • When you're addressing a prisoner, no matter what rank you or they happen to be. Prisoners do not have the privilege of either receiving or returning a salute under any circumstances.
  • When in civilian clothes
  • When members of equal rank pass each other.
  • Even though you might be “under arms”, if you are in a place of worship, saluting is not required or if you’re seated on a military board or court.

    I think that covers most of the basics but if I recall correctly, Marines do not salute each other when they are “uncovered” or indoors unless they are under arms at which time they will always be “covered”. I believe this differs slightly from the tradition of the other branches of the service that require you to salute whether you’re wearing a cover or not.

    I know one thing, if you choose not to offer up a salute to a senior officer under the right circumstances, it’s taken as a sign of disrespect and could even be punishable by the terms outlined in the UCMJ.

    One other thing, all of this stuff is Americentric. Noders from other countries probably have their own traditions to adhere to when it comes to saluting each other.

    Source(s) – Much of this was taken from memory but some was lifted from http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/generalinfo/a/salute_3.htm.

  • Sa*lute" (?), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Saluted; p. pr. & vb. n. Saluting.] [L. salutare, salutatum, from salus, -utis, health, safety. See Salubrious.]


    To adress, as with expressions of kind wishes and courtesy; to greet; to hail.

    I salute you with this kingly title. Shak.


    Hence, to give a sign of good will; to compliment by an act or ceremony, as a kiss, a bow, etc.

    You have the prettiest tip of a finger . . . I must take the freedom to salute it. Addison.

    3. Mil. & Naval

    To honor, as some day, person, or nation, by a discharge of cannon or small arms, by dipping colors, by cheers, etc.


    To promote the welfare and safety of; to benefit; to gratify.

    [Obs.] "If this salute my blood a jot."



    © Webster 1913.

    Sa*lute" (?), n. [Cf. F. salut. See Salute, v.]


    The act of saluting, or expressing kind wishes or respect; salutation; greeting.


    A sign, token, or ceremony, expressing good will, compliment, or respect, as a kiss, a bow, etc.


    3. Mil. & Naval

    A token of respect or honor for some distinguished or official personage, for a foreign vessel or flag, or for some festival or event, as by presenting arms, by a discharge of cannon, volleys of small arms, dipping the colors or the topsails, etc.


    © Webster 1913.

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