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When is it appropriate to use the Military Salute vs. Hand over Heart?

As veterans we have heard the debate time and time again of when you should salute and when you should place you hand over your heart. 

I hope to clear some of this up today and let you know why I have come to the understanding I have. 

NATIONAL ANTHEM

In 2008 a new provision was added to the Flag Code pertaining to veterans and saluting during the national anthem.  It stated:

“(B) members of the Armed Forces and Veterans who 
                        are present but not in uniform may render the military
                        salute in the manner provided for individuals in 
                        uniform; and
            (C) all other persons present should face the flag 
                        and stand at attention with their right hand over the 
                        heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should 
                        remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it 
                        at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart;

Note: Part (C) applies to those not in the military and non-veterans. The phrase "men not in uniform" refers to civil service uniforms like police, fire fighters, and letter carriers -  non-veteran civil servants who might normally render a salute while in uniform.”

What does that mean to us as Veterans and supporters of Veterans?  Any veteran can salute during the national anthem.  If you are not wearing a non-military style cover I would remove it as a courtesy.  For example your Yankees ball cap would not be a military style cover this would also apply to baseball caps that have Veteran, Army, USMC, or other military themed hats.  Then render your salute as you did when you were in active service at the eyebrow.  For everybody else hand over heart is the appropriate.

PLEDGE OF ALLEGANCE

Now when it comes to the pledge of allegiance you have a different standard.  The US Flag code states:

“When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces not in uniform and veterans may render the military salute in the manner provided for persons in uniform.”

If you are on active service in the military and are in full uniform you will stand at attention and salute, but you will remain silent.  This harkens back to the tradition of your oath that you took to enter military service is a higher oath than the pledge of allegiance.  This is not to discourage you from saying the Pledge it is instead just a guideline in full military uniform.  The Flag Code states that if you render a hand salute during the Pledge you must do it as you were in full uniform.  So a veteran can render a hand salute but they must remain silent during the pledge.  If you are going to recite the pledge you should place your hand over your heart.  If you are wearing a veteran organization head gear, aka your AMVETS, American Legion, VFW, etc., cover you leave it on and place your hand over your heart and recite the pledge.

HOISTING, LOWERING, or PASSING OF THE FLAG

This is the easiest of the three situations.  The Flag Code states:

“During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.”

What does that mean to us?  If the flag is entering a room usually the provost, sergeant at arms, or other authorized person will tell you to stand and present arms or hand salute.  If you are not in a formal setting like a convention, meeting, or other event where there will be a color guard you should stand up and just like the national anthem remove any nonmilitary style hats and salute.  If you are not a veteran or current military then you remove any hats and place your hand over you heart until the ceremony has ended. 

I have taken all quotes directly from the U.S. Code: Title 4 - FLAG AND SEAL, SEAT OF GOVERNMENT, AND THE STATES; Chapter 1 - THE FLAG and U.S. Code: Title 36 - PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES, CEREMONIES, AND ORGANIZATIONS; 36 U.S. Code Subtitle I - Patriotic and National Observances and Ceremonies; Part A - Observances and Ceremonies; Chapter 3 - NATIONAL ANTHEM, MOTTO, FLORAL EMBLEM, MARCH, AND TREE; § 301 - National anthem

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