No, Harris Does Not Have to Salute, But Common Courtesy is Welcomed

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There’s a lot going on about Kamala Harris not returning salutes to service members in her details when they salute her. Fox News made a big deal about it in an article, VP Harris repeatedly fails to salute military on Air Force Two, breaking with precedent.

The reality is the precedent, while polite and courteous was wrong. It’s not proper or required for a civilian leader to return a salute to a service member, of any rank. While many presidents and vice-presidents have done so in recent years, it’s not required. They did it because they were kind and courteous people who respected the servicemember’s sacrifice to the country and to their office.

Even though the President is the Commander-in-Chief, he is a civilian in civilian clothing. So is the Vice-President. Under military guidelines, first, commanders do not need to render return salutes to subordinates. Second, salutes are frowned upon, even in the military when wearing civilian clothing.

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Saluting in the military is required when armed or under cover. In the Marine Corps, if you were indoors, not wearing your cover (hat) you did not render a salute.

Saluting while not in uniform and uncovered was not etiquette, President George Bush signed a law that allowed the practice based on personal preference.

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“George Bush signed an executive order that grants military personnel the right to render a hand salute to the Flag when not in uniform,” according to Quora. “This right is for active military members (including Marines), reservists, veterans and retired military service members. … Hence, this is why salute comes with cover.”

The courteous thing to do would be for the Vice President to give the service members a simple “Thank You” or some other kind gesture to acknowledge the respect they are giving her.

A return salute is not frowned upon either. Whatever makes the leader comfortable. Apparently, Harris is comfortable pretending the servicemembers rendering the salute are invisible. We can at least give the Vice President credit for not falling down going up the stairs.

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