This week our Commander-in-Chief gave the orders to significantly step up our military actions against ISIS. While the President stresses that he is minimizing American loss of life by not putting boots on the ground, anytime the men and women in our military are engaging with the enemy their lives are at risk. I know; I served in combat in our Navy. I know firsthand the sacrifices our brave men and women make to protect our freedoms, and I know the tradition and solemnity of the salute, both given and returned.
And that’s why I was so offended with President Obama’s disrespectful treatment of the military’s oldest sign of respect, the salute, when he half saluted two Marines with a latte in his hand as he was disembarking from Marine One earlier this week. And the White House press office is so clueless about what the military is all about, that they promoted this video on the White House website!
The left wants you to believe those upset by the President’s discourtesy are just being petty, but let me explain to you and the left why that totally misses the point.
The salute is not just some nicety the military uses as a replacement for “Hey Joe.” It is the oldest and most distinctive of military traditions, dating back centuries. It is the very first military act members of the military learn in boot camp. And there are clear rules for both giving and returning the salute. A clear tradition is that the senior will return the salute with the same crispness as it was given to him or her. In looking at the video, the Marines appeared to have snapped perfectly executed salutes. And I didn’t see cups of coffee in their saluting hands.
There is a tradition of members of the military saluting the President as he is their Commander-in-Chief. Before President Reagan, many Presidents did not return salutes. Even President Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, did not always return salutes as President. But President Reagan started it as a sign of respect to the military and to “finish” the give and return process of the salute. He understandably felt a little uncomfortable leaving the giver of the salute “hanging”, wondering when he should drop the salute. So, after consulting with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, President Reagan started returning salutes to both return the respect given and to let the giver of the salute know when he could drop his salute. Every President since has continued the tradition.
President Obama would be on pretty firm tradition in NOT returning the salute. But if he’s going to return it, return it correctly. And returning it with a cup of joe in his hand is exceptionally disrespectful of the tradition of saluting, the military members that saluted him, and the world of traditions that drive so much of military culture. Looking at the video, the President’s salute comes off as dismissive, an afterthought, an annoyance.
So, during the week the President sent our troops into combat, our President publicly dismissed our military with a lackadaisical salute. Taken alone, I might overlook it. But given this is the same Administration that continues to send pink slips to Army officers leading men and women in combat in Afghanistan, forces disabled veterans to wait until death to see a Veterans Affairs doctor, and publicly dismisses the private recommendations of his military leaders on how to prosecute wars, it’s starting to look like this President, and his Administration either don’t understand the military or just don’t care. Either way, the men and women of our Armed Services deserve better than a callous salute that looks more like a nuisance or an afterthought than the returned respect of the Commander-in-Chief.
Bob Carey is the Military & Veterans Outreach Director at the Republican National Committee.