Every Salute Must Be Earned!

May 22, 2012 at 6:36 pm Leave a comment


 Last week, I attended the swearing in ceremony of a friend Peter Jean-Louis as second lieutenant in the US Navy. Along with the fact that how Peter got to become a lieutenant was inspirational enough, I learned during the ceremony about a long Navy tradition called the first salute.

But first, let me tell you about Peter. ..

 He immigrated to the US on January 10, 2000 to be reunited with his mother. She left Haiti when Peter was three and he did not meet her again until he was 18 years old. Peter’s father had left Haiti to look for work in Martinique before his mother went to the US. As a result, Peter was raised by his grandmother, a lady who did not know how to read or write. Ironically, Peter’s grandmother turned out to be his greatest inspiration in the pursuit of higher education. She impressed upon him the importance of education and always motivated him to do better.

In 2000, the same year Peter immigrated to the US, he enrolled in a technical school in Miami where he met a retired Army Officer who encouraged him to join the military to take advantage of educational opportunities. A year later, in 2001, he enlisted in the Navy. At first, everything seems complicated; it seems as if Peter landed on a different planet. He was dealing with a double whammy: He was not completely assimilated in the US, including not speaking English proficiently, and yet he had to assimilate into a military way of life. Eventually, it did not take long for him to realize that success in the military required commitment, discipline, and great work ethic. Peter quickly progressed through the ranks, from E1 to E5 in five year.

Early on in his military career, Peter decided that he wanted to become an officer. The Navy offers a level playing field to all enlisted members who want to progress through the enlisted ranks or become an officer, and provides many incentives for enlisted members who decide to pursue higher education. These incentives include tuition assistance, and scholarships. 

As Peter progressed through the ranks, he was also enrolled in college during his off time. In 2006, he became eligible to apply for a full scholarship through the Navy’s Medical Service Corps to study pharmacy.  Enlisted members who are granted this scholarship and who complete the PharmD program are subsequently commissioned in the Navy to the rank of Lieutenant (O-3). This scholarship is highly competitive and the process of application includes obtaining the recommendation of several leaders within the command the members is attached to. This process also includes scrutiny of the member’s performance through the years, including demonstrated leadership development, community involvement, and academic achievement. In 2007, Peter was accepted in the scholarship program and attended Campbell University from 2008 to 2012. He graduated with honors with a doctorate in pharmacy (PharmD)  on May 11, 2012 and subsequently was commissioned as a Lieutenant in Navy Medical Service Corps. 

Back to the Navy tradition of the first salute!

Apparently, this tradition dates back to the 19th century. According to the tradition, a new officer must give a silver dollar to the enlisted member giving him the first salute. The idea is that the newly minted officer needs to buy his first salute and earn every salute after that through his or her performance.

I like this tradition of the first salute because it reminds us that a leader does not deserve respect based on his or her position in the organization but based on the work of the leader: including maximizing the performance of the team under his or her leadership, helping those under his/her leadership to become better individually or creating possibilities for higher achievement that would not happen without the leader’s presence.

Entry filed under: Leadership, Sucess. Tags: .

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