It is an honored tradition that a newly commissioned Second Lieutenant proudly hands a shiny silver dollar to the first enlisted soldier who salutes him/her.

The exact origin of the custom is arguable, but it probably began before the U.S. Armed Forces were organized. British regiments stationed in Colonial America brought with them a number of customs and traditions that were retained by the newly formed American Armed Forces.

For example, newly commissioned British officers were assigned an enlisted soldier to train them, teach them the regiment's history and traditions, and ensure that his equipment met appropriate standards. Grateful lieutenants often showed their heartfelt gratitude by informally compensating the enlisted soldier with a small sum of money. This custom continued to grow within the British military and newly formed American units. American Second Lieutenants, in 1816, received a monthly base pay of $25, a $3 ration allowance and a $1 for an enlisted adviser. This adviser's pay was later discontinued, but the responsibility for teaching the newly commissioned officers continued. The present day tradition is thought to have its roots in this relationship.

Authorized by Congress in April 2, 1792, the silver dollar traditionally is the only coin given in exchange for the first salute. Soon to be lieutenants go to great lengths to secure these sliver dollar coins.

The silver dollar coin represents more than the currency value. To every new officer, it has special significance. It represents the symbolic receipt of respect due the newly earned rank and position. It signifies a deep sense of gratitude of the new officer for the knowledge enlisted soldiers, especially NCO's (Non-Commissioned-Officers), have passed on to them during training. It's acknowledgement from one professional soldier to another saying, "Welcome to our service and to the profession of arms".

The coin is an expression of respect shared together, as are all tasks and missions that are given together for the officer and soldier to perform. The values and ethics that are passed on to the newly commissioned officer are there to be shared and remembered and to be passed on again when the time comes.

Whatever the origin of the "silver dollar salute," it is part of all soldiers' love of duty and their respect for each other, and it strengthens their commitment and responsibility to serve their country.

First Salute Silver dollars are available from the Naval Academy Maryland Parents' Club at:

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