Hand or Heart?

I’m back on the trail. The weather is good, I’m coasting downhill at at a 3% slope. Life couldn’t be better, except that I have questions.

I have random questions, like… is it proper for a veteran to hand salute the flag, or use the hand over the heart method. This could have been a very random question, popping in from left field, but not so. A few weeks ago I was preparing to pass an older gentleman walking on the trail. It happened to be exactly where a flagpole had been erected in the backyard of a house next to the trail. The flag was several feet above the rear fence, so everyone on the trail always had a good look.

As I was about to pass, this gentleman performed a very snappy hand salute. I had passed that flag well over a hundred times and I never thought to do a hand salute. I was convicted, and I slowed to thank the man, and tell him that I would salute in the future.

The trouble was that I had some sort of protocol memorized that only active military can use the hand salute. The gentleman was wrong, and he should have placed his hand over his heart. Should I correct him the next time I see him? Who am I? The flag police?

I’m on the trail and the flag is coming up on my right side. What to do? Should I ignore it. Confusion reigned, so I did the most obvious thing I could do. I googled the exact question, “Is it proper for a veteran to hand salute the flag? The answer was immediate… when I became I civilian in 1973 I lost the right to use the hand salute. I should salute the flag by placing my hand over my heart!

However, in Oct, 2008 the federal law was changed that allows veterans and active duty military in civilian clothes to use the hand salute, if desired. The gentleman was not wrong!

So now my head is on the swivel, how many other flags do I pass on my daily ride. You can’t salute what you do not notice. How much is too much?

For now it is just the one flag, peeking over the backyard fence. I’m usually going at a pretty good clip, so it only takes a second, but it feels just right.

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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3 Responses to Hand or Heart?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Imo u have earned the right and honor to salute it in any manner that you are moved to do. I have no training in protocol.

  2. auntyanny says:

    Your brother salutes EVERY flag he sees on car rides! EVERY FLAG… but swears he doesn’t! On Sundays, on the way to church…that’s 9 flags!!! I sit behind him in the car!!! Maybe I’ll send you a video! John always smirks at me in the rear view mirror and sees if I’m giggling yet!!! Sometimes we cry laughing silently 🤪😳🤔😂
    HAHAHAHAHAHA♥️♥️♥️

    • johndiestler says:

      I can’t prove it, but I suspect that he would do many more things for the flag, things that other men would quake in fear. It just goes with the real estate.

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