Recently I was at a political rally and I saluted the flag during the National Anthem. Afterwards, I was approached by young woman who asked me, “Why did you salute the flag?” I replied that “as a veteran I am allowed to salute the flag.” Her next question was, “Are you are supposed to be in uniform?” I explained that President George W. Bush signed into law the privilege for veterans who are not in uniform to salute the flag during ceremonies. Her comment was, ”That truly is a great privilege.” After that encounter, I realized that many veterans in the room did not take advantage of this great privilege. When I asked a few veterans why they did not salute the flag, they replied that they did not know about this privilege, or they were uncomfortable to do so because they did not understand the origins of this practice. So today allow me to share my research on this matter.
In 2007 U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma introduced Senate Bill 1877 prescribed that all veterans and members of the military out of uniform may salute the flag. This Bill passed by unanimous consent, was included in the Defense Authorization Act of 2008, and signed by President George W. Bush in January of 2009.
In promoting his bill, Senator Inhofe said “The salute is a form of honor and respect, representing pride in one’s military service. Veterans and service members continue representing the military services even when not in uniform. Those who are currently serving or have served in the military have earned this right, and their recognition will be an inspiration to others.”Here is the language, taken directly from the Act:
Section 9 of title 4, United States Code, is amended by striking ‘all persons present’ and all that follows through the end of the section and inserting the following: ‘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.’
This legislation explicitly gives veterans and our Armed Services members out of uniform the option to respect our flag in the most respectful way possible. What a privilege! Really, it is a gift. So I invite all veterans to take advantage of this gift from Senator Inhofe and President Bush to salute our flag often. Let us stand up and be noticed. Let us inspire the next generation of men and women to serve our country!
Veterans Day is just around the corner. Together let’s salute our flag. Please share this great news with all the veterans you know and love.
Al “Doc” Olszewski, MD
Candidate for Governor 2020
State Senator, SD 6