President Barack Obama stirred controversy this week by returning the salute of his Marine guard while holding a coffee cup in his right hand. It was far from the first saluting faux pas of Obama's tenure, and past presidents have failed salute etiquette, too.
For one and all who may find themselves saluting some day, here are five things to keep in mind:
- Thanks, junior: "The junior person shall salute first," Army regulations say. "Accompanying the rendering of the hand salute with an appropriate greeting such as, "Good Morning, Sir" or "Good Morning, Ma'am" is encouraged."
- Blame the Gipper: Ronald Reagan is often credited as being the first U.S. President to regularly salute the troops. George W. Bush was known for frequent salutes, including a gaffe when he saluted while holding the presidential pooch. Most earlier presidents eschewed the practice, rendering more civilian honors, including Harry Truman holding his hat over his heart.
- Follow the rules: Regulations across the military require troops to salute the President, but say civilians, including the commander-in-chief don't need to reciprocate. "Civilian personnel, to include civilian guards, are not required to render the hand salute to military personnel or other civilian personnel."
- Got your hands full?: "Rendering a salute is not required when arms are encumbered," Air Force guidelines say.
- Go Navy: If Obama were a sailor, he would have had an easy alternative. "A sailor, whose right arm or hand is encumbered may salute left-handed, while people in the Army or Air Force never salute left-handed," the Navy says on its website.