Military retirement ceremonies

Military retirement ceremonies offer friends, colleagues and others to thank the  retiring veteran for his services and sacrifice.

Such ceremonies are usually  solemn occasions although humorous recollections about the retiree's experience in service are often encouraged.

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The formal ceremony usually has the following elements:

  • reading of the retiree's biography
  • presentation of a certificate of service and a flag
  • a speech about the career of the retiree
  • a response by the retiring veteran with some short remarks.

The speech may include humorous comments but the overall tone should be patriotic and inspiring. 

If you are attending a retirement ceremony as a civilian and this is a new experience for you, relax.  The military has an established protocol for such occasions and there will be a master of ceremonies who tells you exactly what to do, when to stand and how to show appropriate respect for the national anthem and other music.

  • Plan your travel so that you can arrive early. Military time is punctual and it would be considered impolite to enter a formal ceremony after it has started.

  • Family and invited guests will usually have special seating. 

  • Depending upon your relationship with the retiree, you may be introduced by the emcee.

  • Dress appropriately... and that means conservatively. You will stand out in an uncomfortable way if you look like you have just come in from the beach or the gym.  Those taking part in the ceremony will be wearing the civilian equivalent of a coat and tie.

  • Eat before you come to the ceremony or at the reception afterwards. It is not appropriate to eat or drink during the ceremony.

You may have an occasion to make a speech during the military retirement ceremony or perhaps give a toast at the reception afterwards. For ideas to inspire you, check out this collection of what others have said about military service and our veterans. 

And if you are hosting the party, there are some great suggestions from this website for military spouses. 

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