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Have you noticed a difference in the salute given by our military men and women as President Bush walks by? Most folks would not notice anything, but those who have served in the military see it right away. Next time just watch for this: as President Bush leaves his helicopter or Air Force One, the honor guard will salute–first facing the President as he disembarks, turning to face him as he passes by, and then turning again to salute the President’s back as he walks away.

Though it is a customary courtesy to the Commander-in-Chief, this kind of salute has not been seen for a long time. Why? Soldiers aren’t required to turn and face the President as they salute, nor to salute his back. The only requirement is to salute. They can remain face-forward the entire time, and that is what they did during the previous administration. Our soldiers had to obey President Clinton’s orders, but they were not forced to respect him.

Why is such respect afforded to President Bush? Could it be that he doesn’t know how to bite his lower lip and not get teary-eyed when he speaks?

The following incident reported by Major General Van Antwerp is one of many examples that may help us to understand why President Bush is so respected by our military. Gen. Antwerp’s executive officer LTC Brian Birdwell was badly burned following the September 11th attack on the Pentagon. When President Bush visited Brian in the hospital, our President took the time to stop and pray with him. As he was getting ready to leave, he went to the foot of Brian’s bed and saluted; the President held his salute until Brian was able to raise his burned and bandaged arm, ever so slowly, in return. The Commander-in-Chief almost never initiates a salute; the injured soldier did not have to return the salute. Brian did so out of respect for his President . . . a Soldiers’ President.

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