I’ve wondered about previous presidents and whether they would adhere to a particular protocol, so I’ll ask it once again about the next president: Will the new commander in chief return military salutes given by the men and women in uniform who are required to salute him?
I’ll presume that Donald J. Trump knows how to snap a salute. He attended a military high school, which he once said was virtually the same as serving in the military. I’m betting young Donald’s instructors taught him how to salute.
Believe me when I tell you this: It’s something one never forgets how to do. It’s kind of like riding a bicycle … you know?
Of all the presidents in my lifetime — I was born during the Truman administration — I can recall only four commanders in chief who would return the salute: Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Of those men, only two — Presidents Reagan and Bush — had actual military experience; Reagan, I regret to say, would snap what a friend of mine (a retired Army major) would call a “Hollywood salute.”
All the rest of the presidents during my lifetime, didn’t return the salute, not even President Eisenhower, the former general of the Army and supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II. Nor did President Kennedy, a Navy officer who saw intense combat in the Pacific Theater. Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Bush 41 all served on active duty. They didn’t salute, either.
And so the question will persist as we await a new commander in chief. There’s no rule that requires a president to return the military salute.
It is my own personal belief that the commander chief, despite his civilian status, should return the salute as a matter of courtesy to those who are fulfilling their obligation as military personnel.
Still, I’ll await the next president to see how he treats the servicemen and women who serve under his command.