This is why some service members receive silver dollars from officers

While the US military is relatively young by world history standards, the defenders of the American way of life are still steeped in centuries of tradition.

One such tradition is the “first salute,” when newly-commissioned officers return their fist salute to an enlisted service member.

According to the US Army, “while the origins of the tradition are unclear, some say it comes from the 19th century.”

The tradition is rumored to be learned from British regiments in the United States during the colonial era. When the colonial army was formed some of the customs were passed on, one being of new officers being assigned enlisted advisers.  During the 1800’s newly commissioned U.S. military officers would receive a $1 allowance to give to their adviser as compensation for his advice during a month’s period.

Eventually the adviser’s pay was discontinued, but the mentorship continued between enlisted advisers and officers -starting the silver dollar tra[tps_footer][/tps_footer]dition.

Upon returning a salute, the new officer provides the enlisted man or woman with a silver dollar, traditionally minted the year of the officer’s birth, the year of commission or 100 years prior to the ceremony.

While many websites sell commemorative coins for the occasion, the standard seems to be that of US currency, which makes sense. Both the gesture and the token are far from insignificant- the first salute is a symbolic, once-in-a-lifetime moment and a silver coin is rarely cheap (a 2017 West Point Mint silver coin, for example, runs about $44.95).

Typical “first salutes” usually take place between an officer’s family member or friend, who is either currently enlisted or is a veteran. Often times, the salute will come from among one of their commissioning source instructors. The presentation of the coin symbolically acknowledges the receipt of respect due the new lieutenant.

“It is said that you have to buy your first salute and earn the rest. ”

So if you ever have the opportunity to provide the “first salute,” don’t be quick to turn it down. Not only will you be forever a part of that officer’s life, you might just get a hunk of silver out of it.

Video below: 2LT Brian Kelly receives his first salute from his enlisted Army paratrooper brother recently after he returned from a deployment in 2014.

YouTube video

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