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Saluting in Civilian Clothes

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Updated November 09, 2008

A provision of the 2009 Defense Authorization Act changes federal law to allow U.S. veterans and military personnel not in uniform to render the military hand-salute when the national anthem is played. The new law took effect on October 14.

This change adds to a provision which was passed in the 2008 Defense Bill, which authorized veterans and military personnel in civilian close to render the military salute during the raising, lowering or passing of the flag.

In a press release, Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary Dr. James B. Peake said, “This provision allows the application of that honor in all events involving our nation’s flag.”

Traditionally, veterans’ service organizations rendered the hand-salute during the national anthem and at events involving the national flag while wearing their organization’s headgear, although this wasn't actually spelled out in federal law dealing with respect to the flag. As with all other Americans, the etiquette is to place the right hand over the heart.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, an Army veteran, sponsored both pieces of legislation.

“The salute is a form of honor and respect, representing pride in one’s military service,” Inhofe said in a written statement. “Veterans and servicemembers continue representing the military services even when not in uniform. The U.S. Code is now consistent for veterans and all service members in regards to the symbolic gesture of the military salute.”

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