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"We look forward to watching the Memorial Day Concert each year. At the end of this years program [2010], both my wife and I commented to each other that this was the most moving of the concerts that we have watched in the last 20 years. It was truly a special thanks to the men and women who serve (and who have served) and a reminder of the everyday sacrifices these people and their families make for us ."

Bob Agnew

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Salute to Services

Colin Powell Thanks and Welcomes Home Troops

“Salute to the Services” is performed each year on the “National Memorial Day Concert” as a means of honoring and saluting the men and women from each branch of our Armed Forces who have served our country in one of America’s conflicts.  It is performed just prior to the Address by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Following his elevation to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the "National Memorial Day Concert" is proud to include the Chief of the National Guard Bureau in our annual "Salute to the Services" performance.

History of Our “Salute to the Services”

It is traditional at patriotic events to honor each branch of the Armed Services with its own service song, and for the members of each branch to assume the position of “attention” during the duration of their song. (See The Hand Salute.)

In 1986, “National Memorial Day Concert” producer Jerry Colbert commissioned American composer Henry Mancini to create a special medley arrangement to serve this purpose in the Concert.  The result was “Salute to the Services,” an orchestral piece incorporating all the service songs, designed specially for our Concert. Thus, the tradition was born.  Over the years, “Salute to the Services” has been condensed and revised into the version now featured on our show, arranged by Richard Hayman and adapted by Jim Kessler.

When the songs are arranged in a medley format, it is protocol to present them in order of junior to senior service, as follows:

The Hand Salute

The hand salute is a gesture of respect toward an officer, the flag, or our country. More than an honor exchanged, it is a privileged gesture of esteem and trust among soldiers.

Some historians believe the hand salute began in late Roman times when assassinations were common. A citizen who wanted to see a public official had to approach with his right hand raised to show that he did not hold a weapon. This practice gradually became a way of showing respect and, in early American history, sometimes involved removing the hat. By 1820, the motion was modified to touching the hat; later, it evolved into the hand salute used today.

The salute is widely misunderstood outside the military. Some consider it a gesture of servility, since the junior extends a salute to the senior. In fact, it is an expression of mutual respect. The fact that the junior extends the greeting first is merely a point of etiquette — a salute extended or returned makes the same statement.

How to salute: Turn your head and eyes toward the person or flag. Bring your right hand up to the correct position in one smart motion without any preparatory movement. Raise your hand until the tip of your forefinger touches the outer edge of your eyebrow (just above and to the right of your right eye). When wearing headgear, the forefinger touches the headgear slightly above and to the right of your right eye. Your fingers are together and straight, and your thumb is snug along the hand in line with the fingers. Your hand, wrist and forearm are straight, forming a straight line from your elbow to your fingertips. Your upper arm (elbow to shoulder) is horizontal to the ground. When dropping the salute, bring your hand directly down to its natural position at your side. Any flourish in the salute is improper.

When to salute: All soldiers are required to salute when they meet and recognize persons entitled (by grade) to a salute, except when it is inappropriate or impractical (in public conveyances such as planes and buses, in public places such as inside theatres or when driving a vehicle).

A salute is also rendered:

  • When the United States National Anthem, "To the Color," "Hail to the Chief" or foreign national anthems are played
  • To uncased National Color outdoors
  • On ceremonial occasions such as changes of command or funerals
  • At reveille and retreat ceremonies, during the raising or lowering of the flag
  • During the sounding of honors
  • When pledging allegiance to the U.S. flag outdoors
  • When turning over control of formations
  • When rendering reports
  • To officers of friendly foreign nations

Salutes are not required when:

  • Indoors, unless reporting to an officer or when on duty as a guard
  • A prisoner
  • Saluting is obviously inappropriate. In any case not covered by specific instructions, render the salute
  • Either the senior or the subordinate is wearing civilian clothes

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