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Veterans salute the flag—clarifying the change in the U.S. Code

April 2, 2009: See updated information at the bottom of this article.

February 13, 2009: See updated information at the bottom of this article.

Many readers have been coming to The Daily Flag looking for information about the change in the U.S. Flag Code that permits military veterans not in uniform to render a hand salute. As originally written into Section 595 Section 594 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, the new law (Public Law No. 110-181 of the United States Code) reads:

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.”

However, this change in the U.S. Code caused problems, because “saluting the flag” is addressed three times in the U.S. Code, and the legislative change in the law that took place in July 2008 addressed only one— TITLE 4, Chapter 1, Section 9, which is shown above.

It failed to mention Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 4 from the same Chapter 1, which speaks to saluting the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance, and from Title 36—Patriotic and National Observances, Ceremonies, and Organizations, which includes conduct toward the flag during the National Anthem.

Instruction for saluting the the U.S. Flag during the National Anthem is found in a different section of the U.S. Code from where the “Flag Code” is found, and it is sadly, frequently, overlooked.  Many readers comment that they were taught to stand at attention during the National Anthem, but not taught to salute.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) sponsored the original legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, and sponsored the amendment that Congress has now passed which clarifies the legislation and brings all three sections of the U.S. Code together to say the same thing —that veterans are now permitted to render a hand salute when the U.S. flag is raised and lowered, passes in review, during the Pledge of Allegiance, and during the playing of the National Anthem.

The amendment: Sponsor of The Veteran’s Salute Provision included in Section 595 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, S. 3001:

Amends Title 36 of the United States Code to allow service members not in uniform to salute the flag during the National Anthem.

-FY08 Authorization Bill modified Section 9 of Title 4, US Code, to allow members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform to render the military salute during hoisting, lowering, or passing of the flag

-While the change made to US Code Title 4 allowed our veterans and service members not in uniform to salute the flag when the flag is raised, lowered, or passing in review, it did not allow them to salute the flag during the National Anthem

With this amendment, all portions of the US Code are now consistent for veterans and military out of uniform, to salute the flag.

Joe Satko 83 salutes American Flag, Juneau AK

Countless veterans have continued to render a military salute to the flag, from the day they first raised their right hand and took an Oath of Allegiance.

This option which allows veterans to salute the flag with a military-style salute is voluntary. Many veterans are pleased by the change in legislation, and many veterans will continue to salute the flag by holding their hands over their heart. I’m glad the U.S. Code now reflects that choice.

 

It is my intention to update the tabs on The Daily Flag as soon as possible to reflect these changes in the U.S. Code, but I was waiting until I could copy it precisely (the legal citations, dates, et cetera) from the government web site.

Shown above: Mr. J. Satko, 83, salutes the American flag during the Veteran’s Day ceremony at Centennial Hall. Satko served in World War II as a U.S. Army plane mechanic.

Photograph circa 2005 Juneau, AK, from the Satko Family web site.

NOTICE***UPDATED INFORMATION as of February 13, 2009***NOTICE

I stopped writing new articles for The Daily Flag at the beginning of the year, but I still get many emails asking for information, or comments. I have not stayed on top of this story—veterans and out-of-uniform active-duty personnel saluting the flag—but today I received information that needs to be included.

Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps issued  ALMAR Number: 052/08 on December 17, 2009, which will clarify saluting for all Marines—past, present, and future.

See also: New salute rule not applicable to Marines.

NOTICE***UPDATED INFORMATION as of April 2, 2009***NOTICE

From Adm. Gary Roughead, CNO: BY CUSTOM AND TRADITION, NAVY PERSONNEL DO NOT RENDER THE HAND SALUTE WHEN OUT OF UNIFORM OR WHEN UNCOVERED; THAT HAS NOT CHANGED.