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The Latin Scot

Uniforms and saluting the flag

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I am sure there is some thread in here started back when I was in Scouts, but I figured I would start a fresh one so that I can get the input of the currect membership. With the 4th of July fast approaching, I figure this is a timely subject in any case.

I was at our Cub Day Camp closing ceremonies last week, and they had a lovely flag retiring ceremony at the end which I found rather lovely. All the camp staff traded in their camp t-shirt for "full" uniforms (which I will address in a moment), and they conducted a solemn retiring ceremony while also handing out a number of awards and some recognition for parents and leaders.

Well, a number of the uniforms paraded in front of us were embarrassingly, if not defiantly incorrect. There were medals and ribbons and sashes and ornamentation to a degree of ostentation and attention-grabbing I hadn't thought possible before. These people go to my district table, and I never this this kind of panoply there, so my hope is that they were simply trying to be silly for the last day of Day Camp (I really hope that was the goal).

As we were saluting the flag in the embers, however, one of my Scouts asked me a few questions that rather stumped me. I pose them before you all for your thoughts. For the sake of internet privacy, I will say this Scout addressed me as Brother Latin-Scot.

Scout: "Brother Latin-Scot, don't you have to wear the complete uniform to be considered 'in uniform?'"

Me: "Yes, that's correct."

Scout: "So, most of these leaders wouldn't officially be 'in uniform,' would they?"

Me: "Not properly, no."

Scout: "So then since they aren't officially in uniform, shouldn't they have to put their right hands over their hearts? You know, like they say 'those not in uniform place your right hand over your heart?' Isn't it incorrect for them to salute since they aren't really in uniform?"

Me: "Um. Er ....... ?"

After some hesitation, I suggested to him that I would need to find a more definitive answer before stating anything catagorically, but that, personally, I feel that those who aren't fully in uniform should indeed place their hands over their hearts - but also that it was important not to allow propriety to interfere with patriotism, and that it is something people should be taught at appropriate times and places, without resorting to correcting them in public during such a ceremony. But since he and I knew better, it would be our duty to model correct behavior and teach it to others whenever we could.

Any other thoughts on this while as I study the matter more fully?

Edited by The Latin Scot

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I'm a little confused (my usual condition)....

Was the scout addressing a) scouters wearing too many geegaws and gimcracks in an unauthorized or unseemly manner, thus rendering them "out of uniform" in his opinion or b) scouters wearing the camp t-shirts?

If it's A, then I'd say leave it be.  Truly "slippery slope" time.  Are we going to prohibit saluting if someone is wearing incorrect socks but is otherwise in correct uniform?

If B, and it's the cub day camp t-shirt, I think a salute is fine.  That was their "uniform" for the week.

As a retired military guy, I've seen unit morale plummet because of over-strict local uniform policies.  And then there is the matter of enforcement.  Who is going to walk up to Mr. Long Term Scouter and say "Hey old man, your uniform looks like a Scout Shop threw up on it--no salute for you!"*

For the record, I'm definitely in the anti-geegaw category.

*I'm sure there are some that would...but not me.  I'll go toe to toe on other issues...but not uniforming.

Edited by desertrat77

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I would have to see how not in uniform they were to have a full judgement. That said, the activity uniform counts as a uniform.

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@The Latin Scot,

When I went to NCS to run a day camp, the book at the time stated that when wearing the 'Camp Uniform," i.e. day camp T-shirt, you are considered in uniform and you salute. Rationale for that is to make it simpler for everyone to understand who salutes and who doesn't.

As for the rest. I don't know.

I know at one camp I worked at, all staff members wore a domino necklace with their camp and field uniforms. There was a symbolic meaning to it, and receiving your domino was a big deal.

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I keep running in to the same phrase:  The hand-over-heart salute should be used when not in uniform".

So, you can tell the Scout that they should use the hand-over-heart salute when not in uniform.  

The real question though is are Scouts wrong to use the hand salute when not in uniform - and you're not going to like my answer because it relies very much on words meaning things.  Specifically, the word SHOULD.  It isn't shall, it isn't must - it is should - and that word leaves a lot of wriggle room.  For myself, I'm not going to ever tell a Scout wearing a uniform shirt and blue jeans that they must use the hand-over-heart salute because they aren't technically in uniform.  I'm not going to tell a Scout who is not in any kind of uniform but is in line with his Troop and/or Patrol that he can't salute in the same way as his mates.  We are not the military - as far as I'm concerned, any Scout who is saluting the flag, even if they are wearing shorts, crocs and a t-shirt, is showing respect for the flag - and that's much more important than following some kind of "not really a rule" rule about using the hand-over-heart salute when not in uniform.

I would definitely never tell an adult he's doing it wrong either - for quite some time now, veterans have been allowed and encouraged to salute the flag military style at any occasion that lends itself to saluting the flag - and you may not know if some adult you're about to criticize is a veteran.  If you're ever at a sporting event during the national anthem and you see someone nearby saluting the flag and not holding their and over their heart - thank them for their service.

  • Upvote 3

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Thank you all for your input. It wasn't merely the extra, non-standard issue items flowing off their hats and shirts, but Scout shirts with bermuda shorts, frilly blue skirts on the ladies, long beaded belts with silly designs - I have all the love in the world for a hand-carved neckerchief slide or even a hand-tooled leather belt, but this motley crew included flamingo socks, silly hats, et cetera. Honestly if they had just stayed in their camp t's I wouldn't have minded as much, but they exchanged those for what seemed like a step down in uniforming.

Mind you, not all of them were that bad, and most were clearly being respectful. But those who went off the deep end were down-right distracting, and while I am all for having fun at Day Camp (heaven forbid!), I didn't feel a solemn flag retiring ceremony was the right time for games. Maybe I am wrong; it wouldn't be the first time. But for myself, and for the Scouts around me I could tell, it was a bag of mixed messages which caused no small degree of confusion.

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Oh what a tangled web we weave when we camp with scouters from other parts.

I like @CalicoPenn's approach.

But, it sounds like what you witnessed was a case of over-bling.  I'd talk to the person involved who you're most familiar with, and ask what they were thinking. Explain that it confused one of your scouts.

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I’m guessing the day camp theme was Passport to Adventure, and these volunteers were encouraged to “camp it up” on the final day. During my time on camp staff, I recall staff wearing pirate vests and eyepatches over their Class As. It wasn’t a sign of disrespect, and I don’t think your staff was showing such, either.

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1 hour ago, shortridge said:

I’m guessing the day camp theme was Passport to Adventure, and these volunteers were encouraged to “camp it up” on the final day. During my time on camp staff, I recall staff wearing pirate vests and eyepatches over their Class As. It wasn’t a sign of disrespect, and I don’t think your staff was showing such, either.

Too lazy to dig it up, but there’s a line in the camp standards about encouraging costuming of camp staff. Assuming the staff was costuming in the theme of the camp, they were following the camp standards for uniforming. 

  • Upvote 1

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On 6/28/2018 at 7:52 AM, malraux said:

Too lazy to dig it up, but there’s a line in the camp standards about encouraging costuming of camp staff. Assuming the staff was costuming in the theme of the camp, they were following the camp standards for uniforming. 

I forgot about that!

Yes, costumes are considered "camp uniforms" just like camp T-shirt and swim trunks. And you are suppose to salute. Again the rationale for that is to make it simpler for everyone to understand who salutes and who doesn't: everyone salutes.

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2 hours ago, Eagle94-A1 said:

I forgot about that!

Yes, costumes are considered "camp uniforms" just like camp T-shirt and swim trunks. And you are suppose to salute. Again the rationale for that is to make it simpler for everyone to understand who salutes and who doesn't: everyone salutes.

I would be a bit bothered if staff dressed up only for a flag retirement ceremony. But if they costumed up for a full closing ceremony then yes, they should salute. 

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On 6/27/2018 at 8:25 PM, The Latin Scot said:

 

Mind you, not all of them were that bad, and most were clearly being respectful. But those who went off the deep end were down-right distracting, and while I am all for having fun at Day Camp (heaven forbid!), I didn't feel a solemn flag retiring ceremony was the right time for games. Maybe I am wrong; it wouldn't be the first time. But for myself, and for the Scouts around me I could tell, it was a bag of mixed messages which caused no small degree of confusion.

You're not wrong at all.  In fact you are absolutely correct.  If the scouters took time to change for the flag retirement they could and should have deblinged. That said I thought your answer yo the scout about setting the appropriate example was spot on.  We can only control our own behavior and we can only assume the others were not fully informed rather than disrespectful. 

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