Three days ago marked one of the more important anniversaries in my life. There was a time in my life when celebration of the date meant adding another year to the proud count of my time in the Marine Corps. Since my retirement from active duty, the date doesn't hold the same accountant interest. On the 14th of May, 1978, I received my diploma from the Harvard of the South and by virtue of that milestone achieved the last requirement the President of these re-United States had for my commissioning as a regular officer in the United States Marine Corps. With shiney gold bars on my shoulders, I marched out of Fulton Chapel on the campus of Ole Miss and was stopped short by a chief petty officer who blocked my path and gave me the first salute of my career. I returned his salute and, by custom probably dating back to a time when enlisted men could have a whale of a weekend on a dollar, placed a silver dollar in his outstretched palm in recognition of my first honors as an officer.
I miss being in uniform the most I think because I no longer have the opportunity to recognize fellow warriors with a salute. Returning salutes never became a chore for me as it seemed to become for some of my fellow officers. One of the reasons for this perhaps was that I never looked on receiving the honor of a junior's salute as anything but that--an honor. Correctly returning a salute with as crisp a snap as I could manage was the least I could do for the men who followed my all too often errant lead without hesitation and accomplished remarkable feats for which I all too often received the full credit.
Returning the wave of the rent-a-cop on guard at the local Air Force base gate just doesn't cut it.