Most people who have not been around the military very much cannot see the reason for their constant saluting. Like most time-honored traditions in any society, there is a very simple reason soldiers salute each other.
Centuries ago when knights in their battle armor came upon each other, it was difficult for one to recognize whether he was facing a friend or a foe, so he would raise his visor enabling the other knight to see his face. The knight would extend his right hand, fingers together pointed upwards, palm away from his face, with the thumb protruding on the left at a right angle to the fingers so he could raise his armored, plated visor as his hand went up. This also prevented him from drawing his sword or using his bow.
When soldiers stopped wearing armor, the thumb would no longer be extended as there was no longer a visor to lift up. The raised, open hand was then used to signal a friendly welcome. Later, as British soldiers still do, the hand was turned slightly, with the palm facing away from the greeter and the back of the extended fingers pressed against the forehead or the soldier’s visor on his hat.
To ensure their customs in no way resembled the despised British, the American military, of course, had to turn the hand even more to require the palm of the hand facing down, fingers held stiffly together with the hand and forearm forming a rigid straight line from elbow to finger tips. The index finger was placed against the forehead on the right eyebrow or on the visor of the hat.
So the next time you see one soldier salute another, remember it is their traditional way of greeting each other. It tells the senior officer that the subordinate is “friendly.” It also shows him that the other soldier is unarmed—and hopefully not left-handed!
This book is not about killing people or classified military operations. It is about the life of a soldier and his personal experiences during military service, service to his country spanning almost three decades. In some cases, the passing of time has dulled the memory and caused actual dates or sequences to become a bit fuzzy after more than half a century—but the stories are all true.
Enjoy the travels and real-life tales as the “Old Soldier” is now more than seventy-five years old and—like the knights and soldiers of old—he salutes the reader to let you know that he too is your friend, and he hopes you will enjoy this journey back in time with him!