U.S. Military salutes can wrench emotion from one’s soul. Who can hold back a tear when shots echo through the countryside at a funeral, or not be overwhelmed with pride when the big guns on a ship roar across the seas?
These salutes are steeped in military tradition, some dating back hundreds of years. But, there are many misconceptions about military salutes. This is understandable, though, considering the number of salutes for various occasions. Some have even changed over the years, sometimes through acts of Congress. All of them, however, are intended to demonstrate great honor to those for whom they are conducted. This includes fallen members of the military, presidents, heads of state and even the nation.
Three Volley Salute
The firing of three volleys dates back to the custom of ceasing hostilities to remove the dead from the battlefield. Once finished, both sides would fire three volleys to signal that they were ready to resume the battle.
During the firing of three volleys, the rifles are fired three times simultaneously by the honor guard. Any service member who died on active duty, as well as honorably discharged veterans and military retirees, can receive a military funeral, which includes the three volleys, the playing of taps and a United States flag presented to the next of kin. Three spent cases are usually inserted into the folded flag, one representing each volley fired.
Today, the 21-Gun Salute is fired by artillery batteries in honor of the U.S. President, former presidents, the President-elect and heads of foreign states upon their arrival and departure of a military installation. “Hail to the Chief” or the national anthem of the visiting dignitary is also played. The salute is also fired at noon on the day of a funeral of the President, former presidents and the President-elect, as well as Memorial Day in honor of America’s fallen, and on Washington’s Birthday.
In addition, a 19-Gun Salute is fired in honor of other dignitaries such as the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, president pro tempore of the Senate, Chief Justice of the United States, state governors, chiefs of staff and 5-Star Generals. There is a ranking system for salutes to lower-ranking generals and other dignitaries consisting of dropping two guns for each flag rank junior to a 5-Star General.
Salute to the Nation
Veteran’s Day was first created as Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 to mark the end of World War I. In 1938, Congress made November 11 a national holiday. Then, on June 1, 1954, President Eisenhower signed legislation that changed the name to Veteran’s Day to celebrate all military veterans. The exact day of celebration changed a couple more times over the years before being permanently established as November 11 due to popular sentiment.
This November 11, please remember the veterans who have served, and often died, to preserve the freedoms that we cherish. And thank a member of America’s military, past or present.