SaluteGate: Not Our Biggest Issue

Updated: September 24, 2014


By SGT Awesome

Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

If you’re a member of the military it is highly likely that you recently saw a picture or video of your Commander-in-Chief throwing up a salute with a white coffee cup in his right hand.

There are a few ways that the story is being spun in the media, but the synopsis of them all ends up being, “YAAAAAAAA OBAMA HATES THE TROOPS LOUD NOISES!”

I ask you all to take a deep breath and come with me as we dig a bit deeper.

First and foremost: The salute is an ancient tradition from Roman times that we continue in the modern military because… um, well, tradition. When you break it down it has no inherent meaning of respect and we no longer wear visors on our helmets that require us to lift. We do it simply because if we start getting rid of traditions with no meaning pretty soon we’ll be allowed to put our hands in our pockets and then all Sergeants Major will be out of a job.

Secondly, President Obama never once served a day in the military. He didn’t audit a ROTC class in college and as far as I can tell JROTC isn’t offered in Kenya. (JOKE!)

Why in the hell would we expect him to be precise in his drill and ceremony? Because he’s in charge of us? OK, but the President is still a civilian. Civilians do not have to adhere to military tradition in any way, shape, or form.

In fact, since the founding of the United States of America a total of 5 Presidents have regularly returned salutes in any way. Five out of 43. 31 of the 43 served in the military. Why the discord?

It is because up until 1981 no President returned salutes. It was then that President Reagan, a veteran, felt bad about watching people salute him and not dropping their arm (as one would after a returned salute) so he inquired with the Commandant of the Marine Corps about changing the rules so he would be allowed to return salutes in civilian clothes. He was told, “Well, if you did return a salute I don’t think anyone would say anything to you about it.”

With that one little sentence a new tradition was born. When he left office he encouraged President Bush Sr., another veteran, to continue the tradition; which he did.

This was not without criticism when it started, though, as many thought it represented the President’s military role incorrectly. There was always supposed to be a divide between the military and the civilian leadership and many saw this as a small step towards its erosion.

Traditions are hard to kill however, so even when non-veteran President Clinton took office he also returned salutes; though poorly at first.

BushEven Bush 43, who was in the Texas Air National Guard, occasionally had some issues with the salute.

None of this is to excuse President Obama’s faux pas. It is merely to put it into a bit of perspective and to realize that not only is he in no way required to return salutes, but there should be zero expectations that he correctly do so 100% of the time.

The President of the United States of America should have more important things to do than practice drill and ceremony in his spare time. In fact, he should have more important things on his mind to even notice the salute of some random Marine standing outside of his helicopter. He is the god damn President! I want him to be too busy to notice!

He is ultimately responsible for the tens of thousands of troops currently in harm’s way in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. He is the one giving the go ahead on dropping bombs all over the Middle East. He is the one who is in charge of the most powerful country on the planet… but he is still human and humans make mistakes.

Yet if you must be angry today, might I suggest you get angry that we still have troops in harm’s way? Or perhaps to get angry that we’ve got a Congress with a less than 10% approval rating and over a 90% incumbency rate? How about that after 13 years at war our Veterans Affairs offices are becoming more deadly than the war zones themselves?

In fact, if you must be angry today, I demand you get angry that 22 of your brothers and sisters took their own lives today. Twenty-two. And it happens every single day. Yet this gets less of a reaction than a bad salute by a civilian???

You want a President with military experience? Fine. Start voting for them. Most Presidents come from Congress where there are currently 108 members out of 535 (20%) with any military experience. This is a historically low number. In 1976 77% of the members of Congress were veterans. I believe this downward trend is directly related to the aforementioned things you should be angry about.

Lucky for you, on November 4th, 2014 there are elections for 471 of the 535 members of Congress. You want to make a difference? You want to see change? Get out and vote!

Ultimately, what I am trying to get at is that the President having a cup in his hand during a salute is not a direct slap in your face and spending your time and energy getting butthurt about it while the world continues to slide into chaos is an absurdity the founders of this nation would scoff at.

Look at the energy we are wasting getting angry about this while somewhere, whether in Afghanistan, in a VA hospital, or in their own home, the life of one of your brothers or sisters is about to end.

Do you think they care about a salute?




  1. JoeC

    September 24, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Thank you! I can’t stand Comrade Obama, but it still irritates me to see people picking on him for things that he isn’t screwing up. Like you said, it isn’t like there aren’t enough true things out there to be mad at and it is completely unreasonable for any of us to expect him to give up an afternoon on the golf course to learn how to salute.

  2. rich

    September 24, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    If you are going to return a salute at least attempt to do it right. Remove the oblect from your right hand and do it as professionally as your stupid ass can or just don’t do. Simple.

  3. RUKiddinMe

    September 25, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Once again I see a diversion to Bush for Obamas disrespectful salute.

  4. Mr. Nice Guy

    September 25, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    In reply too “When you break it down it has no inherent meaning of respect”…Have you not read a PDG or actually been in the military. The salute is one of the highest forms of respect and its also meant to show respect for rank. I’m not saying this is the biggest issue we face because lets face it it’s not, does it frustrate me…yes a little but we also have to remember that the president is not in the military and as such is probably ignorant of military customs and courtesies and all that comes with it

  5. Erik

    September 26, 2014 at 1:40 am

    SGT Awesome – you are not awesome… In fact you are a bit of an idiot. I can agree with a fair amount of what you said, and your dislike of faux anger, despite bad stats, but your assessment and understanding of WHY we salute is wrong. Completely wrong. As that formed the basis of your piece here I suggest that, in the future, you at least get the premise of an article correct. (Why do we salute? What is the purpose? Do some research. Between you and I… A professional warrior knows.)

  6. Gunship Load

    September 26, 2014 at 8:26 am

    “…we’ll be allowed to put our hands in our pockets and then all Sergeants Major will be out of a job.”

    Not true, there is always grass for them to keep careful watch over…

    I still don’t walk on grass, unless I am mowing it!

    • AATW

      September 28, 2014 at 10:50 am

      Plus there are plenty of cigarette butts still out there for the SM to pick up!

  7. Lori

    September 26, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    Well written, sir! Yes, there are far more critical issues upon which we should focus our energies, but this gaffe, unintentional or not, shows a tremendous lack of foresight. Had someone planned ahead and paid attention to details, the now infamous cup would have been properly disposed of prior to landing like the rest of us mere mortals or at least prior to deplaning. Or at East a recyclable, economic friendly up could have been used since this incident happened prior to a meeting regarding environmental concerns. The point is this: perhaps it is this administration’s casual disregard for details, an apparent inability to understand that every action generates a reaction and that every choice has a consequence that is the causal factor for 22 servicemembers’ deaths by suicide each day.

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