Posts Tagged ‘How to Address Retired Persons’

I am writing a joint thank-you letter on behalf of two non-profit organizations in our community – the Women’s Business Organization (WBO) – and the Historical Museum.  We recently partnered to do a fundraiser called “Dine Out Springfield”, which raised money that allowed WBO to offer three additional scholarships this year and allowed the Museum to enhance their artifacts and community outreach.
The WBO signatory is our current president.  The museum’s signatory is a US Navy Rear Admiral who is retired.  What is the correct way for me to note his name and rank below his signature line?  Is it Rear Admiral Warren Thompson, USN, Retired or Warren Thompson, R. Adm. (retired) or something else??
— The President-Elect of  WBO

Dear T P-E of WBO:
Note his name below his signature line in the same way one would address him most formally:
Rear Admiral Warren Thompson, USN, Retired
It might be a good idea to include his role under his name since he is not signing the document in any capacity related to his service as a rear admiral:
Rear Admiral Warren Thompson, USN, Retired
Representative for the Historical Museum

I include all the forms of address for rear admirals on page 216 of my book.
Some retired admirals might not use their rank in a post-retirement non-military position, but if you know that he’s a retired admiral, his preference must be to be addressed by his rank.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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Some of our association members are retired from the Senior Executive Service (SES). Is there any title for them?
For example …. John Smith, SES (Ret.) Maybe?
— DF

Dear DF:
I have not seen SES used as a post-nominal abbreviation.
It would be used after the name in an introduction .. e.g., “Our speaker to day is Edmund Burns, a member of the Senior Executive Service and ….”
However everyone who is SES has (or had in the case of retired SES) a specific job and job title and it would be appropriate to note that person is a “former (whatever position they held).
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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I am working on an informal publication that will be published by the Defense Department and I need to list members who participated in some of the work. The members include retired military, retired government civilians, persons with academic degrees (PhDs), etc.
I just looked at you website and I have a question .You reference a directive “the DoD directive you refer to forbids the use by retired personnel of a military rank in any sort of commercial enterprise.” Do you know the exact citation for the directive?
— Writing Away @ the Institute for Defense Analyses

I asked an front-line expert on the topic … a Protocol Officer (and Protocol School of Washington® graduate) for the reference: CDR Ginny Raderstorf, NC, USN Retired, Special Assistant, Executive & Legislative Affairs, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland. Here is what she says backs up the statement. Note: JER is the Joint Ethics Regulations.
From the JER, para. 2-304:  “Use of Military Title by Retirees or Reserves. Retired military members and members of Reserve Components, not on active duty, may use military titles in connection with commercial enterprises, provided they clearly indicate their retired or inactive Reserve status. However, any use of military titles is prohibited if it in any way casts discredit on DoD or gives the appearance of sponsorship, sanction, endorsement, or approval by DoD.  In addition, in overseas areas, commanders may further restrict the use of titles by retired military members and members of Reserve Components.”
DODI 5410.20, Public Affairs Relations With Business and Nongovernmental Organizations Representing Business, has a section on commercial enterprises, too — see para. 7.
DODI 1334.01, which concerns wear of the uniform:
“It is DoD policy that:
3.1. The wearing of the uniform by members of the Armed Forces (including retired members and members of Reserve components) is prohibited under any of the following circumstances:
3.1.2. During or in connection with furthering political activities, private employment or commercial interests, when an inference of official sponsorship for the activity or interest may be drawn.”
Thanks, Ginny!
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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My husband “aged out” of his rank in the Army Reserve (Active Guard Reserve). It was a mandatory separation from service due to age, and he was a “grey area retiree” until he reached retirement age. Now he has full retirement benefits. His checks from his federal credit union still show his rank (LTC) and full name.
When he orders new checks, is it appropriate to continue to show his rank? If so, how should he indicate his retired status? He is considered an Army Reserve retiree.
— Christine S.

Dear Mrs. S.:
I have answered many, many questions relating to forms of address for retired officers that cover this sort of issue: Your husband can use either the “official form of his name” which would be:
LTC William Sugimura, USAR, Retired
LTC William Sugimura, USAR, Ret.
Or the “social form of his name” …. which would be:
LTC William Sugimura
Retired officers can use their ranks in retirement at their own discretion.
– Robert Hickey

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Good morning Robert:
I’m writing to inquire into an apparent discrepancy between Judith Martin’s writing on former titles and the position you put forth in you wonderful book. Specifically, Miss Manners writes about the One At A Time Rule (OAAT Rule) applying only to the President and that title holders revert back to their prior highest official title held.  You write that the OAAT Rule refers to all exclusive positions (Gov/Mayor.) which there is only one office holder at a time.
How does the lay person make sense of what looks like inconsistency within our field?  Many thanks for you help, Robert!
— Susan, A Graduate of The Protocol School of Washington

Dear Susan:
If Judith Martin says a former governor is formally addressed as “Governor” and a former mayor is formally addressed as “Mayor” … then I would disagree with her and would not agree it is historically based.   They continue to be “The Honorable” but most formally revert back their highest former title that wasn’t a O-A-A-T office.

My position is the most formal forms of address, the one used as official events. If someone is addressing a former O-A-A-T official by their former title, there is some element of flattery by the speaker, or some element of the former office holder wishing to hang onto the honors and courtesies of their former office.

Ask this question: At your company, club or association, is the former president addressed as ‘President’?  The answer is always no.  Addressing multiple people as president — or as mayor — or as governor — is confusing.

I’ve had e-mails from readers in Annapolis saying they always called former Maryland governors “Governor (Name)”.  I read that Sarah Palin’s publishing publicist directed people to call her “Governor Palin’ when she was on her book tour. And I’ve seen Newt Gingrich addressed as “Speaker Gingrich” on TV.  Former vice presidents, prime ministers, chief justices, chairmen, and chancellors, all get the same treatment.
But everytime I have directly asked a current or former O-A-A-T office holder … be they a mayor of a city or president of the country club …. they confirm the O-A-A-T rule is correct — having been in the situation of being ‘current office holder’ and having had interactions with ‘formers.’

The point is not to deny the former official of his or her history …. or to deny our deep gratitude for their service.  But our system allows only one person to hold certain offices and to speak with the authority of those offices. While they are in office they receive certain honors and courtesies that belong to the office, not to them personally. Having held the office, while notable, does not grant a lifetime elevation to some personal rank.

I think some of the confusion comes from people hearing e.g., former president Bill Clinton referred to as “President Clinton” on TV.  This is not a form of address but is narrative in the third person.  A newscaster referring to Bill Clinton in a story … is not a direct form of address.  If you meet him call him “Mr. Clinton.” If you introduce him use “The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton.”  Both are respectful and honor the current office holder.
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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I am a retired Brig Gen from the MTANG(USAF) and would like to know what I would use as a name block on a business card prepared for me by a company I’m consulting for.  Thank you.!
— Charles Worthington

Dear General Worthington,
If you are prefer to be address in retirement by your rank, then the recommended forms of address in DOD manuals are:
Brig Gen James W. Higgins, USAF, Retired
Brig Gen James W. Higgins, USAF Ret.
With comma after USAF if “Retired” is spelled out, and without the comma after USAF if “Ret.” is abbreviated.
Only caveat is for the retired officer who takes a civilian job in retirement, and he or she interacts with active-duty personnel. … e.g,, when a retired Air Force officer takes a job at The Boeing Company selling airplanes to the Air Force. That retired officer would use Mr./Ms. (name) professionally to comply with guidelines to avoid the use of ranks in connection with “commercial enterprises.”  If you are working somewhere where no one would imagine you were still on active duty then using “General” or “Brig Gen” is not confusing.
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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We have been struggling with setting up consistent prefixes and suffixes in our database for our military grads. For retired service folks should we spell our “retired” or use the “Ret.” abbreviation?  Is there a comma after the branch of service or is it “USN Ret.”
— Development Office, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

Dear Fund Raiser:
For official correspondence DOD guides use the comma … and either “Ret.” or “Retired” is acceptable.
Brigadier General Arthur Portnoy, USA, Retired
Brigadier General
Arthur Portnoy, USA, Ret.
You may want to consider for your database using the service-specific abbreviations for the ranks:
Arthur Portnoy, USA, Ret.
Arthur Portnoy, USA, Retired
DOD people like the service-specific abbreviations because they can tell that a BGis in the Army, and a BGen is a Marine.  All those
service-specific abbreviations …USA, USN, USMC, USAF and CG …. are in my book.
Note that the branch of service and retired status may not be necessary for what you are doing: On social correspondence (personal letters, invitations or cards) their status … active duty, retired … or branch of service … is not pertinent … and is not suggested in DOD guides.
When “retired” IS PERTINENT is in military environments where “active duty” personnel are present.
Say a retired officer is working at a defense contractor. It would be potentially confusing to present themselves as a “General” when in fact they are not longer a commanding officer and may be dealing with an active duty “General”.   That’s the logic, and in that case “Retired’ is always noted.
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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I am meeting one of our former congressional representatives next week, and I am wondering if it is still appropriate to refer to them as Congressman orRepresentative, even though they have been voted out of office?
— Peter Michaels

Dear Mr, Michaels:
Address your former congressional representative as Mr./Ms./Mrs. (name), If you introduce him/her to someone … then add that he/she was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 19XX to 20XX for the XXX Congressional District of (State).
Current members of the US House are most formally addressed as
Mr./Ms./Mrs. (name),
You DO hear “Representative Smith” and “Congressman Smith” in the media as a shorthand way to refer to the official. It lets all the listeners know who this person is — there are so many members and it’s likely listeners won’t know every one. And sometimes members of the House like to be addressed as as  “Representative Smith”  and “Congressman Smith” when they are away from Washington … just to make sure everyone knows who they are. They like their status to be clear. But on Capital Hill … members address one another simply as
Mr./Ms./Mrs. (name),
I’ve spoken to many Members of the House Representatives on just this point and while some like their invented “Representative (name)” or “Congressman (name)” …. all agree that
Mr./Ms./Mrs. (name) is absolutely correct.
But in any event — former members don’t get a special honorific.

– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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How would you address a retired county or municipal police officer or fire fighter?
Would you follow the same rules as one would with retired armed services officials since many public safety organizations are para-military and follow a similar rank structure as our armed services?
Would it be proper to use  LAPD Captain Robert Esposito, (Retired)

Dear ALR,
f a police officer in the police or fire department wants to continue using his/her rank it’s totally at his/her preference.
In speaking to some Police organizations they tell me that sometimes retired officials DO use their ranks in the context of “being a retired officer” (e.g., at a retired officer’s meeting) … and they may use is socially among friends and family.

But if they take another job they DON’T use their rank in a civilian work situation. This is the same as the armed services which prohibit retired personnel from using ranks or ratings at another form of work. You can’t have a retired Air Force officer now working for Boeing, selling planes to the Air Force and wanting to be addressed by rank!

And detectives often don’t use their rank at any time not wanting to draw attention to their work.

In terms of style, the name would be written on official documents like this
Captain Robert Esposito, LAPD Retired
Captain Robert Esposito, LAPD Ret.
These are the forms all the style manuals use for official mail.
Neither “LAPD” nor the “Retired” is noted on social correspondence.
– Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info

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       How do I address a retired Brigadier General on a namebadge?  
        — Connie Upton

Dear Ms. Upton:
     All of the graded ranks of General …. General, Lieutenant General, Major General, and Brigadier General continue to be addressed orally as General (surname) after they retire.  If you are doing the name badges with form of address others should call the retired officer in conversation … then write:
        General (surname)
    But sometimes name badges are written less for just what to call someone andmore as “ID badges” to promote networking at an event. I’ve seen them withcomplete name+the office+the organization too.  So if you are providing more information … then write the form of his name normally used in writing (including the correct branch of service, of course):
        Brigadier General (full name), USA
        Brigadier General (full name), USAF
        Brigadier General (full name), USMC

            — Robert Hickey     www.formsofaddress.info 

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