FORT HUACHUCA — The Fort Huachuca Select Honor Guard Cannon Battery fired a 21-gun salute in honor of former President George H.W. Bush on Thursday.
The 41st president of the United States died in Houston on Nov. 30.
Starting at noon, a cannon fired into the sky every minute from Reservoir Hill on post, while other U.S. military installations around the world simultaneously saluted the deceased commander in chief.
“When a president, former president, or president-elect passes, on the day of his interment, all military installations around the world will present these honors on behalf of the president,” said Capt. Michael Brown of the honor guard.
At the end of the day, 50 shots were also fired to represent every state in the union.
Installations typically utilize whatever resources are available to execute the salute, explained Brown. At Fort Huachuca, five 75-mm World War II-style ceremonial cannons were used.
“We still have them for ceremonies,” he said. “So we’ll be shooting dummy rounds. They make the boom and the smoke, but they don’t actually shoot any projectiles.”
The 21-gun salute has a long tradition in the United States, and goes even further back. Its origins trace back to the Middle Ages: According to an article from the U.S. Center of Military History, the significance of the number 21 was thought to have originated from a naval salute executed during the Anglo-Saxon empire. Seven was the number of weapons those ships typically had on board, and land batteries were able to fire three guns in response to every shot fired afloat.
Although gun salutes were also used throughout U.S. military history, the 21-gun salute wasn’t formally adopted until 1890.
Today, the high honor is used for the national flag, the sovereign or chief of state of a foreign nation, a member of a royal family, and the president, ex-president and president-elect of the United States.
Several civilians drove up to Reservoir Hill in order to honor Bush and watch the salute. Robert Gartner of Cleveland, who was in town visiting his son, a lieutenant colonel, said it was important to remember what the late leader had done for his country.
“I believe he was a great president,” said Gartner. “He deserves this type of honor from the military, being military himself, and a hero.”