Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Class of 2016 Graduates Take Part in Traditional First Salute

By MC3 Brianna Jones

The ceremonial silver dollar first salute of a newly commissioned officer is a long-standing tradition that requires a new ensign or Marine Corps second lieutenant to give a silver dollar to the person rendering their first salute.  Typically, the new officer will choose someone who has made a significant impact on their life or career to salute them.

Navy custom states that the officer has to buy their first salute and then earn every salute thereafter through performance and by gaining the respect of their subordinates. Although the origin of the silver dollar first salute is murky, it is a rite of passage that new officers share with the friends, family or mentors rendering this special salute.

Petty Officer Mario Medina salutes his daughter, Ensign Brissa Medina, at the
USNA Class of 2016 graduation ceremony. (Photo by MC3 Brianna Jones)

Ensign Brissa Medina gave her father, retired Petty Officer First Class Mario Medina, the honor of delivering her first salute. Petty Officer Medina immigrated to the U.S. from Nicaragua and enlisted in the Navy in 1970. During the span of his career, he participated in Operations Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom.

Medina said her father has been her biggest supporter and her inspiration for a naval career. From a young age, she would see her father in his uniform and would think that one day, she would follow in his footsteps and wear the uniform too.

“I chose my dad as my first salute to let him know how proud of him I am,” she said. “It’s not easy to come to a new country, make a home and accomplish as much as he did. I’m so inspired by his hard work. I wouldn’t be here without him.’

Ensign Sally Anderson chose to have her mentor, retired Chief Petty Officer Ron Hardgrave be the one to present her first salute. Hardgrave and Anderson met when she was only 12 years old. Hardgrave started an Honor Guard within the ROTC program that Anderson was enrolled in. She quickly took interest and assumed a leadership role within the honor guard, working closely with Hardgrave.

The two have stayed in close contact through the years, but Anderson really began to look to Hardgrave for guidance after her father passed away in 2013.

Retired Chief Petty Officer Ron Hardgrave salutes newly commissioned Ensign
Sally Anderson at the USNA Class of 2016 graduation ceremony.
(Photo by MC3 Brianna Jones)

“He has always been a positive person in my life since I was 12 years old. He is really like my father,” said Anderson.

Anderson said that when it came time to choose someone to be her first salute, Hardgrave was the first person to come to mind.

“I feel like I am a part of her family now, and it was such a great honor for her to ask for me to be here and be her first salute,” said Hardgrave.

On commissioning day, the Navy stadium is filled with misty-eyed parents, pride-filled mentors and brand new Navy and Marine Corps officers sharing this special moment with one another. Whether it is a friend, mentor or family member taking part in the time-honored tradition of the silver dollar salute, the moment is one that these new officers – and their loved ones – will never forget.

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