I did not salute the UPS guy.
I did, however, salute a gunny sergeant, and got in so much trouble for it I still cringe at the memory. For the non-military, you do not salute NCOs (i.e. sergeants, corporals, privates, etc.). You’re only supposed to salute officers. However, we cadets were also expected to salute cadet officers, those cadets in their senior year who were not yet commissioned in the military, and thus had no military experience or actual legal rank or authority. I’m still figuring that one out.
Being an officer is an interesting position to be in. I was commissioned in 1991, went to Officer Basic Course at Ft. Eustis 91-92 (transportation OBC is the longest OBC there is, I think, lasting around 5 months), and joined my first drill unit (I was an Army Reservist) sometime later in 1992. I missed going to Kuwait with my unit by a year, although I was stationed at Fort Bragg for Cadet Troop Leadership Training the day Iraq invaded Kuwait. I started CTLT shadowing a 2nd lieutenant to learn what it’s really like to be a platoon leader in the Army and half-way through became a gopher for the unit, running errands to get dental records, wills and powers of attorney finished, plus making sure family care plans were completed so that all the members of the unit I was temporarily assigned to were prepared to go to war. It was quite an eye-opener, being on post during those few weeks. Very hectic, very scary, very confusing.
But back to my first Reserves unit. My unit was a large truck company fresh back from running convoys in Desert Storm and there I was, a brand-spanking new lieutenant who was so new I “squeaked when I walked,” or so said my company commander at the time. I was assigned to be platoon leader and taken to meet my platoon sergeant, a man old enough to be my father who had spent more years in service than I had even been alive. After a quick introduction, I was told to take charge of the platoon and get them to work. In other words, I was supposed to give orders to my old-enough-to-be-my-dad platoon sergeant, tell him what to do with the troops, where to send them, when they had to be there, etc.
Now I know some current VTCC cadets are reading these cartoons. Do you guys have any idea how stupid it feels to be told to give orders to someone who obviously knows waaaaaaaaaay more about the military than you do? No? You’ll find out if you graduate and get your commission. I felt pretty dumb that day giving orders to my platoon sergeant. Fortunately, he was a very patient man, and very easy to work with, and very good at his job. Just as fortunately, I knew I needed to listen to him as much as possible because as a new lieutenant, my capacity for fucking things up was pretty high.
Any way, the moral of the story is, watch who you salute, but be aware that many of the people you’re not supposed to salute are the ones with the most experience and the most knowledge. Respect those people, regardless of your own rank.