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The First Salute Tradition at the United States Naval Academy

events and traditions May 02, 2020

The First Salute Tradition at the United States Naval Academy 

In this blog post I will share

  1. When and how the first salute happens traditionally at the Naval Academy
  2. A little about my first salute 
  3. A history of the first salute tradition
  4. What kind of coin is traditionally used?
  5. Where can I get a silver dollar?
  6. How can I make the coin even more significant?

When and how the first salute happens traditionally at the Naval Academy

Once a midshipmen graduates and is commissioned, one of the great memories of that day takes place.   

The new shoulder boards are placed on the new Ensign and the bars placed on the Marine Corps Second Lieutenant.  I was very fortunate and honored that my sponsor dad put on my new shoulder boards.


It was especially significant because those were shoulder boards he wore as an ensign.  

Then there is the first salute.

A long honored tradition at the Naval Academy is for a newly commissioned officers to give a silver dollar to the person who salutes that officer for the first time.

The silver dollar signifies the deep sense of gratitude an officer has to the enlisted ranks for the knowledge they pass on and for the respect they give in providing a greeting by their salute.

The silver dollar is traditionally a full size dollar, and has a date with significance to the Midshipman.   The first salute is normally orchestrated so the person rendering the salute is someone of importance to the Mid such as a close relative who serves/served or an enlisted person who has been helpful or important to the Mid during her/his time at the Academy.

Many times the first salute is rendered by a special Midshipman to the newly commissioned officer from their sports team or company. 

Parents often buy two coins, one to be given for the first salute, the second to be kept as a memento for the Midshipman. 

My First Salute

I asked now Master Chief Lance Connolly, one of my Senior Enlisted Leaders at the Academy who has been instrumental in my personal and professional development. 

It was a great honor to have this mentor render my first salute.


History of the First Salute Tradition

Andy Reed from provides the history of the first salute.

While no one knows for sure where this tradition originated, some suggest that it was passed on from British regiments garrisoned in the US during the colonial era. Of course at the time it would not have been a "dollar" as we know it. As the story goes, some of their traditions and customs were passed on to newly formed American units. New officers were assigned an enlisted adviser who showed them the ropes, taught them the regimental history as well as the ins and outs of the military profession. Lieutenants compensated their enlisted adviser with a small sum of money.

American Second Lieutenants in the early 1800's, received about $25 monthly as base pay, a rations allowance of about $3, and an additional allowance of $1 for their enlisted adviser. While the adviser's pay was eventually discontinued, the responsibility for mentoring the newly commissioned officer continued. This relationship is thought to be the basis for this tradition.

By tradition, the silver dollar is the only coin given in exchange for the first salute. While the coin may be just one dollar in denomination, it represents a value far greater. To new officers it may represent the respect found in ones newly earned rank and position. A twist on the thinking for the silver dollar salute is that the new officer must buy his first salute as he has not yet by the nature of his deed alone, earned it!

This coin should represent the deep-felt gratitude for the mentor ship and lessons imparted by the Non Commissioned Officer on his Ensign or Second Lieutenant before she/he sends him out into the world to embark in the profession of arms. 

What Kind of Coin is Traditionally Used

There is no requirement to use any certain kind of coin.  Traditionally a silver dollar is used from the year of the new officer's birth or commissioning.

Where Should I Get This Silver Dollar?

I recommend two options for purchasing these silver dollars.  

1.  The Maryland Parents Club

The Naval Academy Parents Club of Maryland is proud to offer First Salute coins to graduating firsties and their parents. They obtain the breathtaking uncirculated American Eagle silver coins, which are one ounce of pure silver. 

2. is a veteran owned family business. They provide quality coins, competitive prices, and provide excellent service for their customers. They are the only supplier of customized first salute coins in the entire United States. 

How May I make the Coin More Significant?

I love some personalization and customization on the coin to make it even more of a keepsake that may get passed on for generations.  Andy at has a number of Silver Dollar options (including Marine Corps) and he can inscribe on the coin and/or put it in an inscribed case for presentation or display.

This inscription can include a quote or family member, non-commissioned officer or Midshipman that it is rendering the first salute.


You can learn a lot more about the the history of the first salute and the options Andy offers at in the above video of a podcast interview with Grant.

What About a "Virtual First Salute" ?

Absolutely possible if you want to do it!

This Navy photo shows then Ensign Andrew Wondolowski '13 receiving his first salute from his brother then Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Philip Wondolowski who was deployed on the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in 5th Fleet from over 7,000 miles away.  (Story from Navy Times)

The first salute is a great tradition and is a wonderful memory.

Please feel free to email me telling me your experience with first salutes that I may want to include in future posts to share with the Academy Insider community.

Grant is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy class of 2017. He is also the founder of Academy InsiderYou may reach out to Grant with questions at [email protected].   

To learn more about the Naval Academy through the perspective of a midshipman/recent graduate - subscribe to his podcast the Academy Insider Podcast with Grant Vermeer on Apple Podcasts, Google Play MusicStitcher and Spotify.

If you want to learn more about the United States Naval Academy, please follow the Academy Insider on Instagram and Facebook, and visit his website

Academy Insider is not affiliated with the United States Naval Academy. All thoughts and opinions are my own and do not reflect those of the United States Navy or the Department of Defense.