Understanding Marine Corps Customs
Marine Corps News | March 12, 2007
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. – Have you ever wondered why your Marine stands at attention during the playing of the National Anthem when you are at a sporting event? You might ask why donâ€™t you put your hand over your heart? Or, why are you so stiff? I know I have received those questions. Lots of military customs and courtesies go unknown to a significant portion of this Nationâ€™s population particularly when members of our Corps silently obey those time honored traditions while in civilian clothes. Here is a short list of things you may or may not know:
The National Anthem. When played, the servicemember will stand at attention. If covered while in uniform, the servicemember will salute the National Ensign (our flag). It is also appropriate for the servicemember to turn and face the flag during the playing of the National Anthem. The appropriate civilian action is to place your right hand over your heart and stand still while facing the flag.
Passing of the National Ensign. It is fitting to render proper honors to the Nationâ€™s symbol by standing when the flag passes. You will see this at parades or during a Command Review. For Marines in uniform and covered, rendering a salute is also proper.
The Salute. Its history dates back a long way and there are several versions of why it exists. All theories agree on one thing, it is a courtesy that is offered when two individuals pass, similar to the tipping of a hat to acknowledge the presence of a lady. In the military, the salute is a greeting between an officer and an enlisted member or between a junior officer and senior officer. All services, to include the Coast Guard, recognize saluting procedures. Some services apply different constraints on when a salute is rendered. For example, in the Marine Corps, a member will only salute while wearing a cover. In the Army, saluting in Physical Training clothing is appropriate although no cover exists. For all services, the salute begins with the junior rendering the salute and the senior returning the salute. The appropriate civilian greeting is to simply say good morning maâ€™am or good evening sir. This is also the appropriate military greeting for Marines when not covered.
Service Songs. Service songs are as historic as the service herself and most military members take great pride in hearing their song played. For Marines, we consider our â€œMarineâ€™s Hymnâ€ to be a song that tells our lore and for most, it makes us swell up with pride when we hear it. Accordingly, we stand at attention when it is played. We also recognize our service within the Department of the Navy and therefore find it fitting to render the same honor to â€œAnchors Aweighâ€. You will hear both songs played at formal settings such as a Sergeant Major Post and Relief or a Change of Command ceremony. Appropriate civilian action during a service song is to sit and listen with pride. Of course, weâ€™d love to see you stand beside us and know that you too are probably swelling up with pride for the love of your Marine.
I hope this letter has helped you understand just a couple of our Nationâ€™s and our Corpsâ€™ customs and courtesies. Semper Fidelis.
(BTW, if you poke around on this site, you’ll see a lot of my issues I raise come from here. Here, the American Legion, the DAV (Disabled American Veterans), etc. In case you were wondering where I get the issues I raise and why I never seem to run out of issues to chat about.)