Vets, Troops Not in Uniform Now Can Salute Flag

WASHINGTON – A change to federal law allows U.S. veterans and military personnel not in uniform to render the military-style hand salute during the playing of the national anthem.

The law took effect earlier this month, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs news release.

“The military salute is a unique gesture of respect that marks those who have served in our nation’s armed forces,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. James B. Peake said. “This provision allows the application of that honor in all events involving our nation’s flag.”

The provision builds on a change that went into effect last year. That change authorized veterans and military personnel not in uniform to render the military-style hand salute during the raising, lowering or passing of the 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. Otherwise, as with all other Americans, the etiquette is to place the right hand over the heart.

The most recent change was part of the 2009 Defense Authorization Act, which President Bush signed Oct. 14.

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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  1. U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary leaders should become aware of this new approved protocol as there are a significant number of prior service/veteran members who may start doing this. Of course, when in Auxiliary Uniform, then Coast Guard protocols take precedent.

  2. Lorin Welker says:

    Let’s ask for a 30 second intro just before the National Anthem to publicize the change. For more info go to

    CW4 Lorin Welker (Ret)

  3. Elias T. Tallas says:

    I have been aware of this regulation, and have rendered the salute at may functions while in civilian attire. I do however wear a veterans baseball cap at many of these functions, which identifies me as a veteran. I think that the regulation should require those who render a salute to have a cap that reflects either thier branch of service, Purple Heart, VFW, DAV, American Legion, Catholic War Veterans, Jewish War Veterans, Unit of service (i.e. 1 Cav Div; Silent Service, Combat Infantry etc.). Generally as a rule, this will stop people who are not veterans from saying they are. The other way, anyone can salute the flag. Let us seperate the Veterans from civilians who have never served.