[August 28, 2020] An interesting scene in the HBO series Band of Brothers (2001) brought back memories of the time I was an officer in the U.S. Army. In the military, we have a saying, salute the rank, not the man. Saluting is a sign of respect,1 but there are times you do not respect the man wearing the rank.
What to do? Since saluting is a sign of respect, should you salute an officer you do not like or respect? Military regulations are clear; you will salute. In a short YouTube video, we see the disliked Army Captain Sobel walking by Major Winters (sitting in a jeep). The men do not like each other. Sobel appears to walk by without saluting, but Winters says, “salute the rank, not the man.” This is giving Sobel an out. You can see the scene here (YouTube video, 34 seconds).
There were plenty of men and women in the U.S. military of all branches that I did not like or respect for a variety of reasons. Some of them I believed to be cowards, others were using their position for personal benefit or purely for promotion, and still others were just not good at being a leader. Regardless of the reason, I would always salute the other officers because I knew I was showing others that I respected the rank.
The U.S. is going through great turmoil with rioting, looting, arson, murder, and other violent crimes being carried out, mostly in large cities. Politicians are losing the respect of citizens when politicians condone such violence, either by implicit support or by not condemning the acts of violence. Yet, politicians are the ones with the responsibility and authority of their elected office that can create real change. When we disrespect them, the results may not be to our liking.
Holding politicians to account for their failures is the right way of behaving. As an Army officer, I followed military rules to deal with other officers that failed to uphold the minimum military standard of behavior. A few of my friends did not think this way and would resort to name-calling and petty sabotage. This is not the way of a good leader.
Like Bigmama (my maternal grandmother) used to tell me, “stop whining, stop whining now!” Those that whine are showing an immature trait that will get them nowhere in life. It shows they are not a professional but a person that acts out on base emotions and not on logical learned thought. She made me stand up straight, look people in the eye, tell the truth, accept responsibility, and keep my mouth shut unless I had something important to say. My wife calls it, putting on my big-boy pants.
Salute the rank (or office or position), not the person. Respect where that leader is at the moment, even if they don’t deserve it.