Sunday, April 28, 2013

A silver dollar for your first salute

Where the tradition actually comes from.
My command recently commissioned two officers (one warrant and one LDO). The ceremony for both of them included giving a silver dollar for the first salute...something I am well familiar with. However, the description of why went something like this: an officer has to buy his first salute, while all others ones are earned.


I knew this to be wrong...and finally I found some proof.

From the incredibly awesome document library at IDC Self Sync:

(go to page 143)

Whether you think the origin is the difference in pay or paying for a messing servant, the point is that NO WHERE is there any reference to an officer buying his first salute. None. Likely this myth has been propagated by a sailor disgruntled with the officer corp from years ago, and is sadly repeated today.

What exactly is the purpose of even knowing these traditions, besides giving the occasional enlisted sailor a silver dollar?

We need to know where we came from. Our Navy has a long history, and the reason we do things the way we do is often rooted in years of experience. Often in our desire to create something new and leave our mark on the Navy, we forget that the way we've done business in the past is there for a reason. Reading about our history and learning our past traditions helps keep us rooted and prevents change that won't work.

Also, understanding our traditions helps us know when to scrap them. The silver dollar salute is a classic example. To me, it's borderline insulting to say that you pay for your first hearkens to the days when officers purchased their commissions, often based more on their heritage than their proficiency. When I read that it's a payment for a young petty officer, who kept the officers mess kit and helped train the officer in his new job, it makes me think more of how our officers are always linked to the enlisted that support them...something that helps motivate me even today, hundreds of years later.

Traditions aren't blind actions performed in a vacuum. They aren't excuses for hazing. What naval traditions do is remind us of our heritage. They give us something to be proud of. They help our tribe (Navy Sailors) seperate themselves from the other services.

We should be proud of our traditions...proud enough to pay attention and actually learn them.