Vice President Kamala Harris has broken a tradition maintained by at least the last two of her predecessors and skipped saluting military guards before boarding Air Force Two.
Harris was captured on video Monday walking past servicemen without saluting before boarding the jet. Former Vice Presidents Mike Pence and Joe Biden each maintained the practice of saluting servicemen before boarding and after exiting the plane during their tenures, according to Fox News.
“DISGRACEFUL: @VP Kamala Harris refuses to salute the honor guard at the steps of the aircraft. It is a clear demonstration of her dislike for those in uniform, both law-enforcement and military,” former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik wrote in a caption of the video posted to Twitter.
DISGRACEFUL: @VP Kamala Harris refuses to salute the honor guard at the steps of the aircraft. It is a clear demonstration of her dislike for those in uniform, both law-enforcement and military. pic.twitter.com/7QFHzamnt7
— Bernard B. Kerik (@BernardKerik) March 23, 2021
The incident appears not to be a one-off as Fox News has reported that Harris has declined to salute her military guards on at least three other occasions.
“Video reviewed by Fox News showed that Harris did not salute the honor guard on Monday nor during earlier trips on March 15 and 16. She did not appear to salute when disembarking Air Force One with Biden on March 19 either,” the outlet reported.
As vice president, Harris is not in the chain of military command, unlike the president, and is not required to salute, according to The Huffington Post. Neither is the president, though every president since former President Ronald Reagan has maintained the regular practice of saluting military members since 1981. Reagan later explained how he began the practice in remarks to U.S. servicemembers in Iceland:
I can’t resist telling you a little story that I’ve just told the marine guard at the Embassy. The story has to do with saluting. I was a second lieutenant of horse cavalry back in the World War II days. As I told the admiral, I wound up flying a desk for the Army Air Force. And so, I know all the rules about not saluting in civilian clothes and so forth, and when you should or shouldn’t. But then when I got this job — [laughter] — and I would be approaching Air Force One or Marine One and those marines would come to a salute and I — knowing that I am in civilian clothes — I would nod and say hello and think they could drop their hand, and they wouldn’t. They just stood there. So, one night over at the Commandant’s quarters, Marine Commandant’s quarters in Washington, and I was getting a couple of highballs, and I didn’t — [laughter] — know what to do with them. So, I said to the Commandant — I said, “Look, I know all the rules about saluting in civilian clothes and all, but if I am the Commander in Chief, there ought to be a regulation that would permit me to return a salute.” And I heard some words of wisdom. He said, “I think if you did, no one would say anything.” [Laughter]
So, if you see me on television and I’m saluting, you know that I’ve got authority for it now — [laughter] — and I do it happily.