The Salute Fest is what I witnessed by a team of law enforcement officers, pallbearers, standing over the casket of a comrade and folding the American flag. Before picking up the flag, they saluted (this is acceptable). Before the first triangle fold, they saluted. The team then continued to salute for the other 12 triangle folds. It was painful to watch.
Yes, we want to honor our flag and we should. This is why the Flag Code was written and the US military wrote even more guidance. First responders follow either the Army Training Circular or the Marine Corps Order if they want just regulation drill, both downloadable from the Military Manuals section of the Resources page. If they want ceremonial drill, they follow the national standards detailed in The Honor Guard Manual.
Saluting the Uncased Flag
An uncased flag is one that is mounted on a color guard flagstaff and is not cased and also a flag that is not folded into a triangle.
When it is carried, uncased, by a color guard and the team marches past.
When passing, approaching from any direction, a color guard (whether the staffs are at Carry or Order) and the flag is uncased.
When a car with a mounted flag drives past (do not salute a stopped car unless it is occupied).
When a coach (hearse) or caisson carrying a flag-draped casket passes.
When passing a coach (hearse) or caisson carrying a flag-draped casket.
By the oncoming and off-going Casket Watch guards (the guards do not salute each other) who salute the flag-draped casket.
When the flag is raised at Reveille.
When the flag is lowered at Retreat.
By pallbearers just before picking up the casket for transport.*
By pallbearers just before lifting the flag off the casket to fold it.*
*This salute is not rendered by every military service, it is acceptable.
When to Not Salute the Uncased Flag
When passing a flag mounted on a halyard (rope) on an outside permanent flagpole.
When passing a flag mounted on a color guard flagstaff on display indoors.
Saluting the Cased Flag
A color guard flag that is folded (Marine Corps, Navy, & Coast Guard) or furled (wrapped; Army, Air Force, & Space Force) around the staff is then cased and the folded flag (triangle) is also considered cased.
Each time the folded flag is handed off to another.
Typically, the flag is folded, handed to or taken by the pallbearer who ensures the flag is presentable (not salutes here),
then that pallbearer hands the flag to the senior member present (salute rendered by the pallbearer),
and the senior member then presents the folded flag to the next of kin (salute rendered by the senior member).
When to Not Salute the Cased Flag
Before receiving the the folded flag.
When the folded flag is being carried to/from a ceremony.
At Reveille or Retreat.
How do we Salute the Flag?
We stand at Attention and render the hand salute. We do not bend our head down to look at the folded flag, we look straight ahead. The Slow Salute (3 seconds up, 3 second pause, & 3 seconds down) is appropriate for individuals only, not groups (formations). If more than one flag is presented at the same time and all presenters will coordinate their simultaneous Slow Salute, that is appropriate. Those in formation should render the standard salute (one second up and down and only on the commands of, “Present, ARMS” and “Order, ARMS”, respectively).
You have an upcoming Line of Duty Death funeral and will be handing the flag to the Sheriff, Police Chief, or Fire Chief who will then hand the folded flag to the next of kin (NOK). What do you say to brief the Chief? Here is something to help you:
“Chief, stand at the head of the casket. When I step over in front of you, hold your hands flat out in front of you with fingers together and I will hand you the flag with the presentation side down. I will salute the flag while your arms are still flat. When I finish my salute, cradle the flag into your chest (now, the presentation side faces out) and I will depart. If you forget to not cradle the flag before I salute, I will still salute. As I depart, you walk over to the NOK, bring your right hand up to the right side of the flag and push the long straight edge of the flag forward so that the presentation side is now up. Recite the statement of condolence, stand, render the Slow Salute, drop the salute and walk off.”
What to Expect
We can begin with the main image above. The flag is folded toward the foot. The checker takes the flag and then:
The flag goes through it’s inspection to ensure it is presentable and then sent down the “Chute” to the Lt.
The police lieutenant hands off the flag to the Chief.
The Lt salutes the flag, turns, and marches off. At this point, the Chief would move to the NOK and present the flag with the speech. Note: the Chief was not briefed in this situation as she was the recipient (mock NOK) for the mock graduation funeral. She was asked to just accept the flag without any guidance since the true NOK would not receive guidance.
“Oh how many feet you meet!” I read to my children every night when they were growing and Dr. Seuss’s Foot Book, was a favorite.
I got the idea for this article from this article – https://www.wearethemighty.com/MIGHTY-FIT/combat-boots-hurting-feet?
Fascia: A sheet or band of fibrous connective tissue enveloping, separating, or binding together muscles, organs, and other soft structures of the body.
Plantar Fascia: The thick connective tissue which supports the arch of the foot.
Plantar Fasciitis: Short-term inflammation in a fascia. It is a disorder of the connective tissue which supports the arch of the foot. It results in pain in the heel and bottom of the foot that is usually most severe with the first steps of the day or following a period of rest. Pain is also frequently brought on by bending the foot and toes up towards the shin.
Plantar Fasciosis: Long-term inflammation in a fascia. Although, it seems that everyone just uses “fasciitis” to mean both, in general.
I spent 20 years in the US Air Force and before that I was an Army ROTC cadet at New Mexico Military Institute. Since retiring from the USAF in 2005, I still wear boots in my DrillMaster utility uniform any time I am teaching. That’s quite a few years to wear boots! To use today’s vernacular, plantar fasciitis much? Yes and I was given these hard plastic inserts by the VA clinic that I wore for several years that helped a little bit, but I still needed to get a new set each year or so. Still, the idea was still in the back of my head: why do I need these? What happened?
There are still people in the world who do not wear shoes. A tribe in the jungle somewhere doesn’t have a podiatrist assigned to it who is telling one of the older members, “Well, we just need to take an impression of each of your feet and then we will get you some hard, solid plastic inserts to give you some relief.” Insert into what? No shoes.
If people can survive all their lives without a “tribal podiatrist”, what happened to my feet? Shoes and boots happened.
I don’t play a doctor on TV or anywhere, this is just my experience and research. A bunch of research that I will not detail except to say that there are some very good physical therapy accounts on Instagram that will explain all kinds of details that I’m not qualified to get into. Here is the shortened journey I went through to have feet that don’t hurt.
Exercise. Your feet have muscles that are not allowed to work properly when you wear certain shoes and boots. This is not going to be fun or comfortable at first, but I was better in about nine months. After two years, my feet are just fine. Do this every day.
I walked forward and backward in bare feet eight steps on the outsides, insides, heels, and platforms (ball of the foot and toes) of my feet. At first, the heels might be the most painful so I wore athletic shoes or went outside and walked in the grass. Eventually, I was able to do all of my walking on our hard floors in the house without any pain whatsoever.
“Make fists with your toes.” Lay a towel flat on a smooth floor and, while leaving your heel on the floor, pull the towel toward you with your toes and arch.
Shoes. When not on duty, start wearing shoes that provide protection from the surface on which you are walking, but that can bend and move and allow your feet to work properly. I fell for the notion of having shoes that must have steel plates in the soles to give you the best support or the supper soft squishy soles that help you roll your foot forward. Please don’t waste your money, the support comes from your bones, tendons, muscles, and fascia in your feet, up your legs, and into your pelvis.
I don’t wear flip-flops. If you want a sandal, wear one that has a strap around the back of the heel.
You are on a relatively short journey that I pray will reduce and eventually eliminate your pain. I hope this helps you.
In my years of judging military drill competitions, I have encountered a peculiar situation with just about every Navy JROTC team. The team commander (platoon, squad, or color guard) calls the commands without the first letter of each word. Here is an example:
I thought it might be one of those situations where one JROTC team does something different and others want to do it too because different is somehow “cool”. That’s not the case at all. Apparently Headquarters NJROTC teaches this technique as part of the summer leadership school curriculum (please correct me if I am wrong!). If this is the case, we have a big problem.
The issue with this is twofold: 1) The US Navy follows Marine Corps Order 5060.20 for drill and ceremonies and the command voice is addressed in this Order. NJROTC must take the information in the MCO and apply it uniformly across the command. 2) The sound of these commands is like listening to a monotone sea lion. It’s an abrupt, bark-like sound, devoid of the proper qualities.
The following voice characteristics are completely ignored when using the monotone-no-first-letter NJROTC technique (text in bold below is my emphasis).
MCO 5060.20 Says
f. A command must be given loud enough to be heard by all members of a unit. (1) Good posture, proper breathing, and the correct use of throat and mouth muscles help develop a commander’s voice. (2) Projecting the voice enables one to be heard at maximum range without undue strain. To project a command, commanders must focus their voices on the most distant individuals. Good exercises for voice projection are: (a) Yawning to get the feel of the open mouth and throat. (b) Counting and saying the vowel sounds “oh” and “ah” in a full, firm voice. (c) Giving commands at a uniform cadence, prolonging each syllable. (d) When practicing, stand erect, breathe properly, keep the mouth open wide, and relax the throat. (3) The diaphragm is the most important muscle in breathing. It is the large horizontal muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. It automatically controls normal breathing, but must be developed to give commands properly. Deep breathing exercises are one good method of developing the diaphragm. Another is to take a deep breath, hold it, open the mouth, relax the throat muscles, and snap out a series of fast “hats” or “huts.” Expelling short puffs of air from the lungs should make these sounds. If properly done, you can feel the stomach muscles tighten as the sounds are made. (4) The throat, mouth, and nose act as amplifiers. They give fullness to and help project the voice. In giving commands, the throat should be relaxed. The lower jaw and lips should be loose. The mouth should be open wide and the vowel sounds (a, e, i, o, u) should be prolonged. Consonants (letters other than vowels) and word endings should be curt and sharply cut off. (5) The position of attention is the proper position for giving commands (See figure 1-6a). A leader’s bearing will be emulated. If it is military, junior personnel will be inspired to respond to commands with snap and precision. (6) Distinct commands inspire troops. Indistinct commands confuse them. All commands can be given correctly without loss of effect or cadence. To give distinct commands, you must emphasize enunciation; make full use of the tongue, lips, and lower jaw; practice giving commands slowly, carefully, and in cadence; and then increase the rate of delivery until the proper rhythm (112 to 120 beats per minute) is reached and each syllable is distinct. Raising the hand to the mouth to aid in projecting commands is not proper. (7) Inflection is the rise and fall in pitch, the tone changes of the voice. (a) Preparatory commands should be delivered with a rise and inflection in the voice. (e.g., “BaaaTALion,” “PlaaaTOON,” “FoorWARD,” “TO the REAR,” etc.) In particular those preparatory commands that cause supplemental movements should be heavily accentuated on the last syllable. (e.g., The command “Present, ARMS” the preparatory command Preee(pause)ZENT” causes those armed with swords to execute the first count of the movement and the national color to go to the carry. Another example is “Officers, Center, MARCH.” On the preparatory command of “OffiCERS” those armed with swords go to the carry, on the preparatory command of “CennnTER” the officer’s step and/or face) (b) A command of execution is given in a sharper and higher pitch than the tone of the preparatory command’s last syllable. A good command of execution has no inflection, but it must have snap. It should be delivered with sharp emphasis, ending like the crack of a whip. If properly given, troops will react to it with snap and precision. (c) Combined commands such as “FALL IN” are delivered without inflection. They are given in the uniform high pitch and loudness of a command of execution.
MCO 5060.20 15 MAY 2019 Enclosure (1)
Notice how command voice qualities detailed in the MCO are the complete opposite of the technique that most NJROTC cadets seem to use. The MCO was written for a purpose, just like all other military manuals. We need to use it as it was intended.
Certain things, when they become ubiquitous, can lose their special quality. Compound daily viewing with that object being everywhere and that object or moment becomes commonplace.
The American flag is one of those items. In the eyes of some, it’s just another piece of cloth. Many in the American public understand that it is not just some colored cloth, we understand that, even though the government might be running the country into the ground, the flag still stands for freedom, truth, etc. However, when Americans do not take care of their flag and hold it in high esteem, you get what we have today.
Take that idea and put the POW/MIA flag in the mix. As of 2020, this flag is now to be flown at every federal building. It’s never carried by military color guards, it is only carried for the funeral of a former POW as a personal color.
Let’s add to this idea and include the bugle call Taps. Taps is technically not “played” it is sounded and sounded only at specific times for very specific reasons. This is from Jari Villanueva, America’s Taps Bugler:
Taps serves a dual purpose: 1) To signal that the end of the day and that it’s time to go to sleep and, 2) To render honors at a military funeral or memorial service and only on a bugle or trumpet. Taps is not sounded just because the community or the nation is suffering a certain tragedy (real or perceived).
Note: When buglers are playing at a ceremony, they must be in view of the next of kin. All ceremonial elements must be in view.
And Another Thing…
The Firing Party is next on our list. A firing party is made up of a minimum of 4 members: 3 who fire and 1 to command; and the maximum number is 8 members: 7 to fire and 1 to command. The team does not shoot, it fires the Three Volley Salute. We find information about the firing party and when it executes its mission in Army Training Circular 3-21.5 and Marine Corps Order 5060.20. Both manuals have information for the team to fire during a funeral or memorial service and that’s it. A firing party does not fire a salute because it would be really cool or special. The Three Volley Salute is meant to show respect for a fallen comrade at a funeral, memorial or remembrance ceremony only. Traditionally, the firing party fires OVER THE GRAVE and we can extrapolate that to over the cremated remains or, if the remains have not been recovered, over the general area of where the next of kin.
A firing party does not fire the 21-gun salute. That is accomplished only by the cannons of the Army, Marine Corps, and Navy.
But, the Manuals Don’t Say We can’t…
This is selfishness. I’ve heard the arguments for all kinds of situations: “The manual doesn’t say we ‘can’t’ use metal staffs for color guard.” “The manual doesn’t say we ‘can’t’ fire a salute at the parking lot of the deceased’s favorite restaurant while his friends have wings and drinks in his honor.”
You are correct, the manuals do not have a long list of situations where the firing party (and Taps, for that matter) is not authorized. What you WILL find are the two situations where the firing of the Three Volley Salute is authorized. Look for what is there, not for what isn’t.
I was told by a social media friend that he saw a veteran service organization color guard during a parade in his town. The team marched to a certain point, stopped, the guards stepped out of formation, and fired. This kind of action needs to stop immediately. A color guard and firing party do not merge. We have manuals for a reason.
Usually, when I post and article, I will have a relevant photo as the main image that is above. Not for this one. This issue is too touchy. I have dozens of photos of veteran organizations with the colors backwards, wrong flag, etc., etc. I am not going to single out one team but want to post a nice calming rainbow and unicorn from dawnitabee.blogspot.com. :-)
I received a message not long ago
Good day sir, one of my local honor guards is very untrained, they are a group of older vets who don’t have the knowledge I believe nor the skill and I’m wondering how I should inform them, I don’t want to be ignorant or arrogant but rather help educate them because I think that’s what they deserve for the deceased and their families. They have a video on YouTube but is for me very hard to watch because of everything that’s wrong. Thank you for the help.
I understand exactly what you are saying and how you feel about the team. Many veteran teams barely have an idea of what they are doing, they just think they know.
The first “problem” is attitude. Not yours but theirs. It’s quite possible that they already know everything and will dismiss you as some dumb punk who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
The second “problem” is choosing what standards to follow. Army TC or Marine Corps Order? Sadly, just like many groups, veteran groups rarely read the manual, even if they choose one standard, and then train to that standard.
The third “problem” is confusion. If you are trained in the TC and they are using the MCO (or vice versa), you are going to have a tough time switching over to constantly make those small adjustments. Along with this is a veteran serving his/her 4 years and then having a life for 30+ years in the civilian world and coming back to serve on a local team without the ne
The last “problem” is how you approach them. By what you wrote I can tell you have a great concern for them, the vets they honor, and upholding standards so, I don’t think that’s an issue for you. There is some risk involved, but if you are respectful in how you present the situation to the team, even if they are using a different standard from what you are used to, it’s quite possible that you all could learn together.
Having said that, if a JROTC cadets approaches a group of vets out on a ceremony, the cadet may run into laughter at the audacity of attempting to correct the team. However, it’s quite possible that the JROTC cadet is better trained in colors- not so much with firing party or flag fold.
When I first PCS’d (moved) to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan and eventually, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, I did not have an initial desire to join either BHG until I noticed certain issues with both teams. My approach to the NCOICs for the colors presentations I witnessed made all a difference. Having said that, the leadership, especially of the Spangdahlem BHG had NCOs who were open minded and willing to listen. I eventually joined both teams initially as a behind-the-scenes trainer and then as a performer due to a lack of personnel (a rampant problem overseas).
It’s a two-way street- respect must be in the conversation and ego needs to go away.
Teams: Be Receptive
If you are on your veteran service organization for all of the glory, you are definitely there for the wrong reason. Service with an honor guard unit is not about the individual, it’s about rendering honors without recognition. You are not “you”, you are a nameless member of a team firing the three volleys, folding and presenting the flag, or standing as a member of the color guard.
When anyone approaches you or your team, even if they are impolite, you must be polite. You don’t have to act on their words, but you represent more than yourself in that uniform and when rendering honors.
This is a great question that I receive every so often. So, here’s an example of how you can begin spinning a rifle (or any other type of practice) and progress to a level of proficiency with which you are comfortable.
You are not going to be a world champion in six months after picking up a rifle for the first time.Patience, time, effort, hard work, dedication, etc., etc. are what it takes to progress in any activity.
I must say this here: You should not put undue pressure on yourself (or your team). Do not compare yourself (your team) to others. I know that when you go to a competition, you are ranked and rated against others, but don’t let that be your only gauge. Your competition is YOU. You (your team) needs to improve with each practice- even slightly. Constant improvement should be your goal. Trophies, ribbons, and other awards should be last on the list of achievements. They are fine, but if they are the ultimate goal, you are in for a big letdown. Achievement, progress, and improvement should be at the top of the list.
Don’t expect significant improvement in a week. At the beginning improvement will be very slow. It will increase.
There is a cycle to training.
Beginning Education – Read everything you can about what you are to learn
Training – The initial learning the task
Practice – repetition of the task or tasks
Training – New task
Practice – Repetition of new task to include previous tasks
Repeat Education – Refer back to your original or updated training materials
Continuing Education – intermediate or advanced information
Training or Retraining – Continue the process or correct any action discovered in the previous Education phase
Practice – repetition of the task or tasks
Training – New task
Practice – repetition of the task or tasks
If you can only practice once a week for an hour, then you will achieve a level of proficiency that is commensurate with that amount of practice. NOTE- there is nothing wrong with this if this is all you can do, just make you training and practice as effective as possible. However, you must realize that others with whom you will compete are probably going to practice more. All performers/teams should be cheering each other on, regardless.
The same goes for practicing 10 hours each week- you will achieve a level of proficiency that is commensurate with that amount of practice. It’s similar for equipment. Your equipment can be a limitation. If you (or your unit) can only afford the lighter drill rifle for spinning, then that’s what you have and you should do your best to work with it. The effort you put forth is also going to come into play in how proficient you become. Are you willing to get up at 0400 to make it to practice at the field house or gym because 0500 is the only time the drill team can get at school? Are you willing to practice on your own?
The factors that affect your proficiency:
Time (how much time you can put into training and practice)
Equipment (the type of equipment you have at present)
Effort (how much hard work you are willing to put forth)
Rifle Spinning and More
This will be specific to learning how to spin a rifle, but can apply to anything.
First, don’t neglect what you have to do each day. Next, if you can put in only 15 minutes of practice each day, fine. Thirty minutes is good to start with. Sixty minutes is very good later on. Last, when you first begin, you don’t want to try to spin for an hour your first day and then end up with an injury or muscle strain. Yes, you are using muscles in a new way and they may ache, but you must build up your stamina and some people take longer than others.
Master the basics, add, master, add, master, etc. (refer to the Phases above). That means if you are going to begin rifle exhibition drill, master the manual of arms for your service and I mean MASTER those moves- know them inside and out and be able to execute them with minimal mistakes. Then, and only then, begin to explore individual exhibition moves. Work from simple to complex. You may find the simple moves too simple and want to skip over some- don’t. Learning everything you possibly can is how you are going to get more familiar with the rifle.
Familiarity with the rifle is key to communicating the quality of effortlessness when performing and that is what you want. It also gives you the ability to ad-lib (create on the fly or, what some call, monkey drill). The more familiar you are with that rifle, the better off you will be if you make a mistake during an exhibition drill performance.
Below are some beginning (and a couple advanced) videos of exhibition drill moves both for the rifle and marching.
For ANY Practice – Repetition
Whether you are working on ceremonial drill, regulation drill, or exhibition drill, you need to master a new task to become proficient and then move on to learning a new task. That takes repetition.
Vertical Repetition – repetition at one practice session
Horizontal Repetition – repetition over several practice sessions (not the same day)
Just one hour or even one day will NOT make you an expert or necessarily proficient to perform later that day (are you reading this Just-in-Time trainers?), it will take days or even a few weeks of repetition to master the task and create the necessary muscle memory.
Muscle memory: The physiological adaptation of the body to repetition of a specific physical activity resulting in increased neuromuscular control when performing that activity again.
Standing at Attention takes a certain amount of muscle memory. Really. For example, if you stand with bent, hiked elbows, looking like you are ready to attack someone ( I did when I first entered AFJROTC in 1979), you have that muscle memory, but it needs to be changed to where your arms are relaxed. The same goes for any movement.
Mnemonic: What the Marine Corps calls a “Ditty” is a technique for memorization and, in our case – drill and ceremonies, it’s also used to maintain tempo. This can be as simple as saying, “One-Two” while executing a Right Face or something more complex.
The Seven Principles of Learning
This is really good to have in the back of your mind as you train others/yourself. Courtesy of Principles of Learning.
Principle #1 – Potential. Humans are endowed with an inherent potential for increase in capacity, the establishment of habit, and the definition of being.
Principle #2 – Target. Human potential may be channeled intentionally toward a specific, predetermined target of learning, or will otherwise follow incidentally from the conditions to which a person is subjected.
Principle #3 – Change. Learning is a specific type of change, which is governed by principles of (a) repetition, (b) time, (c) step size, (d) sequence, (e) contrast, (f) significance, and (g) feedback.
Principle #4 – Practice. Principles of change are activated and aligned with learning targets through models of practice, exercise, or experience.
Principle #5 – Context. Learning is facilitated by a context of practice that is the same as, or accurately represents, the context of performance.
Principle #6 – Engagement. Learners will often engage in certain activities as a matter of habit, though they are also influenced by their current capacity to engage, as well as factors of motivation and inhibition related to the activity as a whole, part of the activity, its circumstances, or its expected results.
Principle #7 – Agency. Learners are not passive recipients of learning, but active agents with the ability to choose how they will apply their attention and effort, and to choose what learning activities they will engage in. Others may exercise their agency to promote or inhibit the agency of the learner, and may play a role in facilitating or impeding successful learning.
When I was teaching at a local high school here in Florida a few years ago I asked a cadet a question in front of the rest of the team at drill practice. The question was, “Are you stupid?” Another, reactionary, cadet lit into me because she thought I was insulting him. After telling her and a couple of others to calm down, I asked him again, “Well, are you stupid?” With a sheepish look on his face, he replied, “No.” I think he knew where I was going with the question. I said, “Of course not! You are a bright young man, you do really well in school (his grades in math were outstanding) and on this team. So then, why do you screw around when it’s time to work?”
Everyone then understood my point. Discipline yourself so others don’t have to.
Praise in Public
I know, someone reading this is probably infuriated that I would “punish in public”. It’s discipline, not punishment. Since the 1990s we have been getting punishment and discipline confused.
Control gained by enforcing obedience or order
Orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior
Of course disciplining someone can be a form of punishment, we need to understand that, but that’s not part of my job. Instilling discipline in others is part of my job. It’s a fine line.
Punish in Private
The last part of the phrase in the previous subtitle.
Suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution
What I have described here does not come close to punishment.
But, why in public?
Regarding the original story, because the action was in public and others need to see that it is unacceptable. Is it embarrassing for the individual? Of course, that’s part of the process. However, I leave it behind, it’s over with. I forget about it as it has already been dealt with and I involve the individual in the training again. My dwelling on it or my allowing anyone else to dwell on it will degrade the session and result in fruitless and wasted time.
Public discipline is a great way to teach many at once using a negative situation. When we just ignore bad behavior or treat it privately and only publicly reward good behavior, we are missing a valuable opportunity.
We all do stupid things, especially when a teenager. Teenagers are awful and wonderful all at the same time. I’ve been teaching them since 1986 and it’s been a maddening, frustrating, stressful, challenging, exciting, educational, fun, creative, thrilling experience!
A note on the featured image at the top of the page: The two female cadets and I staged the photo. I was trying to look as if I was being stern, but they kept laughing.
President Reagan is the man who began the Presidential Return Salute.
Civilians do not return a salute, they aren’t military. Even a President who served in any branch of the US military, serves as the civilian head of the Armed Forces as Commander-in-Chief. As an example, President Eisenhower never returned a salute while he was in office even though he was a General of the Army (5-star).
While the President is the only civilian who receives a direct salute (one-on-one), all civilians may receive an indirect salute (like in a cordon).
President Reagan, wanted to show his respect to those on Marine One, Air Force One, and at the White House. It wasn’t enough for him to just receive, he wanted to do something in return.
Each President since has continued the tradition to varying degrees (I do not think this is the place to get into the terrible salutes of each subsequent US head of state). I understand why President Reagan did it and that if any President after him would have discontinued the tradition, he would have been vilified most likely.
President Trump has extended the use of the salute to beyond just returning a direct salute from members of the military. He will render a hand salute for ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, for example.