Military Courtesy & Critical Vulnerabilities

I heard a story once about a lance corporal who failed to salute a lieutenant. Deeply offended by this breach of military courtesy, the lieutenant directed the young Marine to salute 100 times by way of remedial training.

A Marine colonel happened upon this scene and asked what was going on. He listened patiently to the lieutenants explanation before commenting.

“Lieutenant, you realize that if this Marine just rendered you 100 hundred salutes then you owe him 100 in return.”

The colonel left the scene, the lieutenant now returning 100 salutes as military courtesy demanded.

Semper Fidelis!

America’s SgtMaj

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    4 comments

    1. Sgt Maj –

      I’d heard it was Chesty Puller (IIRC, source document is Col. Jon Hoffman’s biography, entitled, “Chesty”) Then – Col. Puller was going around the Bn Area when he happened upon said lieutenant making said enlisted man render the hand salute. “What’s going on here, Lieutenant?”

      “Sir, this man failed to salute me. I am having him render the salute 100 times in order to train him.”

      “Lieutenant, you are absolutely correct to train this man. However the customs of the Service and Naval Regulations require that a salute shall be returned. In order to set the example, Lieutenant, YOU will therefore return this man’s salute 100 times.” And Chesty stood over the Lt until he did.

      Chesty was like that, I gather. Another story from Col. Hoffman’s biography has him catching an enlisted man screwing up and spilling a gallon or two of water from the water buffalo trying to fill a one-quart canteen. Chesty ripped the lance coolie a new one, then patted him on the shoulder and said, “Come over here, son – let me show you how it’s done.” and demonstrated the right way to do it…

      Gen. Puller is a hard act to follow, but if you aim high, you’ll at least hit high.

    2. Early in my career I heard this apocraphal account of an American unit in Germany. The story goes that a particular brigade commander had given orders that the wear of gloves during winter was a critical life-saving policy that he expected all subordinate commnders and leaders to ensure the policy was ridgidly enforced. As such, and henceforthe, any soldier caught in the field without gloves and his supervisor or commander would be required to give up his own.

      It happened one day that the Colonel was inspecting the troops in the field, on a particularly cold day. he spied a young soldier going about his assigned tasked without gloves. He immediately summoned the Company commander. He pointed out the infraction. The Commnder already knew of the infraction and there was a good reason for it but the Colonel wouldn’t hear of it. “Give that man your gloves, Captain”. The Captain, complied.

      As the Colonel turned to leave, the Captain called out to him… “Sir, I, your subordinate, am without my gloves”.

    3. Back in Nov ’91, I arrived at my first permanent duty station, VMA-231. Our SgtMaj at the time was a grizzled ol’ dark green Marine named SgtMaj Brooks. Probably had been in since Moses was a boot… The story reportedly happened a few months after they got back from Desert Storm.
      SgtMaj Brooks was coming into the squadron from outside the flight line gate as one of our officers (Capt. Grant ham as I recall from the story) was also coming in. As they reached the gate, SgtMaj Brooks greated the Capt with ‘Good morning Sir”, but failed to render a salute. The Capt asked SgtMaj Brooks if he was going to render a salute to an officer, and the SgtMaj’s reply was ‘When you get a hair cut and look like a Marine officer, I will salute you as one’.
      Obviously, this didn’t sit well with the Capt, and he went to the CO. The CO called SgtMaj Brooks into his office to ask about the incident, and ShtMaj Brooks confirmed that the incident occurred as reported. The Co then supposedly said Capt. Grantham, go get a hair cut..
      Again, this is the story as related to me in’91, but SgtMaj Brooks was highly respected by the entire enlisted side, so I don’t doubt the veracity of the story..

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