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Ex-officer wants veterans to salute at games

Published: Monday, Nov. 4, 2013 10:07 a.m. CST

(MCT) — If Robert Griffith's plan takes hold, an Iraq War veteran wearing a Bears cap and Jay Cutler jersey would rise during the national anthem to salute the flag. A few rows away, a Marine from World War II would lock his right arm into a salute. All around Soldier Field, and at stadiums across the NFL, other veterans would stand and do the same.

Griffith's dream is unlikely to become reality this Veterans Day weekend, when the retired Navy commander hoped teams would start a tradition of inviting veterans to salute. An NFL spokeswoman said every team is planning events to recognize current and former military members in November, but only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were planning to ask vets to salute.

But the idea has gained prominent supporters, including some lawmakers and former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who hope it continues to gather steam.

The simple gesture of saluting, innocuous as it may seem, is governed by federal rules. Until 2008, veterans had to be wearing some sort of uniform — an American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars cap sufficed — to render the military salute.

Recent changes approved by Congress mean a uniform is no longer required to salute during the national anthem or certain flag ceremonies. But the Legion and VFW disagree about whether that's a good idea, and many veterans either don't know about the rule change or are unsure whether they should participate. Legion members passed a resolution last year asking Congress to restore the old standards.

(c)2013 the Chicago Tribune Distributed by MCT Information Services

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