How to Address Retired Military?



ON-LINE GUIDE TO
FORMS OF ADDRESS
* * *
BLOG: Robert HIckey
Answers Questions
From On-Line Users
* * *
VIDEO of Robert Hickey
* * *
About the book:
HONOR & RESPECT

Abbess,
    Christian Orthodox       
Abbot,
    Christian Orthodox        
Accountant        
Acting Official       
Adjutant General     
Admiral
        

Admiral, Texas Navy   
Adventist Minister       
Alderman
        

Archbishop, Catholic        
Archbishop,
   Christian Orthodox        
Archdeacon, Episcopal        
Archimandrite        
Architect
Archpriest        
Ambassador, Goodwill
Ambassador to your country
   from a foreign country      
Ambassador of the U.S.
   by a U.S. Citizen       
American Indian Chief        
Assemblyman
   U.S., State / or           

   Assemblywoman            
Associate Justice,
   U.S. Supreme Court          
Associate Justice of a
   State Supreme Court
Astronaut      
Attorney
         
Attorney General           
Attorney General,
       Assistant   
Attorney, U.S.         
Australian Officials    

Baron, Baroness           
British Officials,
   Royalty, Nobility     
Brother, Catholic
         
Brother,
   Christian Orthodox          
Bishop, Catholic            
Bishop,
   Christian Orthodox         
Bishop, Episcopal        
Board Member     
Boy        
Brigadier General       
Business Cards      

Canadian Officials    
Candidate    
Captain,
   USA, USAF, USMC     
Cardinal
             
Chairman
    Federal Reserve      
Chairwoman      
Chancellor      
Chaplain in the
    Armed Services        
Chaplain of Congress          

Chargé d’Affaires         
Chief Executive Officer 
Chief Judge          
Chief Justice,
      U.S. Supreme Court 
Chief Justice, of a State
      Supreme Court             

Chief of Police          
Chief of Staff     

Chief Operating
   Officer          
Child
           
Chiropractor     
City Manager
   
Clergy & Religious
    Officials     
Club Official          
Colonel, Kentucky      
Colonel, USA, USAF,
    or USMC     
Commandant       
Commissioner, Court     
Commissioner
         
Commodore of a         
      Yacht Club         
Congressman, U.S.               
Congresswoman, U.S.   
Consul and or
   Consul General   
 
Consultant      
Corporate Executive         
Councilman
    Councilwoman      
Counselor (Diplomat)      
Countess     
County Officials       
Couples     
    U.S. Military
    U.S. Officials
    Private Citizens  
Curator        

Dalai Lama          
Deacon         
Dean, academic            
Dean, clergy            
Deceased Persons        
Degree, honorary      
Delegate, U.S., State
            

Dentist             
Deputy Chief of Mission      
Deputy Marshal          
Designate,
Elect,
    Pro Tempore      
Diplomats      

District Attorney           
Doctor, Chiropractor     
Doctor of Dentistry
          
Doctor of Medicine              
Doctor, Military           
Doctor of
   Veterinary Medicine          
Doctor, Optometrist   
Doctor of Osteopathy            
Doctor, Other Disciplines     
Doctorate        
Doctorate, honorary      

Earl            
Elect, Designate
  
Pro Tempore      
Emeritus/emerita
     
Eminence     
Emperor    
Engineer    
Esquire, Esq.       
Etiquette    
Excellency           

Family     
Fiancee      
Firefighter    
First, Second,
   Third, etc.        
First Lady, Spouse
   of the President of
   the United States 
First Lady, Member
    of Her   
    White House Staff      
First Lady, Spouse
   of a Governor
   or Lt. Gov.    
First Lieutenant
   
Flag Protocol     
Former Officials    
Freeholder       

Gay Couple      
Geshe

General
    USA, USAF, USMC
Girl       

Goodwill Ambassador      
Governor General         
Governor, Lieuten
ant
 
Governor, Lt., Spouse   

Governor, Tribal Council          
Governor, U.S. State       
Governor, Former    
Governor
    Spouse of     
Governor's Staff,
    Member of
     
Governors, Board of 

High Commissioner    
Honorable, The
          
Honorary Ambassador       
Honorary degrees
Honorary doctorate
   
Honourable, The
   
 
   

Indian Chief         
Inspector General    
Interim Official   
Introductions       
Invitations
  
   Writing &  
   Addressing  
Invitations
   
Military:
    Writing &
    Addressing

Judge, former     
Judge of US City or

        US Count     
Judge, US Federal            
Junior, Senior,
    I, II, III, etc.       

Justice, Associate

     Federal
     Supreme Court

Justice, Associate

     State
     Supreme Court

King     
Knight      

Late, The
   (deceased persons)
       
Lawyer      
Lesbian Couple    
Lieutenant      
Lieutenant Colonel,     
   USA, USAF, USMC      
    
Lieutenant General,
   USA, USAF, USMC      

Lieutenant Governor    
     

Major
   USA, USAF, USMC  
Major General,
   USA, USAF, USMC   
Man, business
          
Man, social
         
Marquess / Marchioness
 
 
Married Women       
Marshal for a
   Judicial District, U.S. 
Mayor, U.S. City   
Mayor, Canadian City    
Mayor Pro Tempore
     
Mayor, Vice    
Medic      
Minister,
   Protestant Clergy       
Miss      
Monk,
   Christian Orthodox     
Monsignor       
Most Reverend, The        
Mother Superior
    
Mr. (Social)      
Mr. (Business)      
Mrs., Ms. (Use, Social Forms)      
Mrs. vs. Ms.     
Mr. & Mrs. / Couples   
   

Name Badges or Tags     
Nobility, British
       
Nobility, Other     
Nun, Catholic
  
Nun, Orthodox
Nurse           

Officer, Police     
Optometrist     

Pastor, Christian Clergy  
Patriarch,
   Christian Orthodox  
Patriarch,
   Ecumenical Patriarch
   of Constantinople  
People with Two Titles      
Permanent
     Representative        
Petty Officer
      
Pharmacist     
Physician
        
PhD     
Place Cards            
Police Chief
Police Officer                     
Pope, Catholic
  
Pope, Coptic
      
Postmaster General         
Post-Nominal
    Abbreviations    
Presbyter, Orthodox
   
President, corporate
President of
    College or
    University   
President of a
    Secondary
    School      
President of a
    US State Assembly 
President (current)
   of the U.S.A.          
President (former)
   of the U.S.A.     
     
President of the
    U.S.A., spouse of  
President-elect
    of the U.S.   
Priest, Catholic          
Priest,
    Christian Orthodox 
Priest, Episcopal        
Prime Minister
       
Principal      
Professionals
   & Academics         
Professor
     
Pro Tempore,
   Elect, Designate    
Psychologist      

Queen

Rabbi               
Ranger, Texas        
Representative,
   U.S., Federal           
Representative,
   U.S., State            
Reservist, Military      
Resident
    Commissioner 
Retired Military
   1. Formula For
       How to Address     
   2. Q&A / Blog On
       Use of Rank by
       Retired Military    
 

   3. Q&A / Blog on
       How to Address
       Retired Military   
Retiree        
Reverend, The
      
Right Reverend, The         

Same Sex Couple      
Salvation Army    
School Board Member
     
Second
Lieutenant        
Secretary,
   U.S. Department,
   Member of the Cabinet
Secretary
   of Defense, U.S.       
Secretary, Assistant       
Secretary General
   of the U.N.            
Senator, U.S., Federal       
Senator, U.S., State         
Senator, Canadian       
Senior, Junior,
     I, II, III, etc.         
Senior Judge 
      
Sergeant       
Sergeant at Arms
          
Seventh Day
     Adventist Minister       
Sheriff       
Sister, Catholic       
Solicitor General      
Speaker of the U.S.
   House of
   Representatives.           
Specialist       
Spouse of the
    President of the U.S.       
Spouse of the
    Vice President
    of the U.S.           
Spouse of an
    Elected Official            
State Attorney     
Surgeon General          

Texas Ranger        
Town Justice      
Town Manager       
The Honorable     
Tribal Officials     
Two Titles,
    Person With

Under Secretary    
US Attorney
       
US Federal Officials
     
US State Officials     
US Municipal Officials

Venerable, The        
Veteran (not Retired)         
Veterinarian
           
Very Reverend, The         
VFW Officer/Official    
Vice Mayor       
Vice President
    of the U.S.
Spouse of the
    Vice President
   
of the U.S.
Vice President-elect
    of the U.S.      
 
Viscount and/or
   Viscountess        

Warrant Officer       
Widow
     
White House Staff    
Woman, business        
Woman, social        

Yacht Club Officer      


 

How to Address / Forms of Address
Retired Members of the
United States Armed Services

Questions & Answers, Frequently Asked Questions, and Blog


Site updated by Robert Hickey on November 15, 2014

For how to address a specific rank
        check out: Job-by-Job Guide.
       
For a Q&A on use of ranks by retired personnel,
       check out Use of Rank by retired personnel.
        
For a Q&A on use of ranks by veterans,
       check out Use of Rank by vets.
         
For Q&A on how to address active duty personnel,
       check out Forms of Address for US Armed Forces.
         
For Q&A on How to Write Military Names on Invitations
       or How to Address Invitations to the Military
       check out Military Invitations.

Formula for Addressing a Retired Personnel      

Can I Address Retired Personnel as Mr./Ms.?      

How Do I a Use my Military Rank on a Return Address?       
      
How Do I Address a Grey Area Retired Military Personnel?        

Parentheses? Retired or Ret.? or (Retired) or (Ret.)?         
Which is Correct for Retired Army? AUS or USA?                        

Retired: Spelled Out -or- Abbreviated?        
Use of "Retired" & Military Rank on an Invitation     
Use of "Retired" on a Certificate?     
Use of USMC, Retired or USMCR, Retired? I Served in Both the USMC & USMCR  
How to Address a Retired General Officer in Conversation?        

May an Officer Ever Be Addressed with a Higher Rank?          

How to Address a Retired Officer Below O-6?        
How to Address a Retired Officer of Unknown Rank?       

How to Address a Retired Enlisted Person?
        

How to Address a Retired Reservist?      
How to Address a Retired National Guard Officer?      
How to Address a Retired Officer and His Spouse?      
How to Address a Retired Officer who has a Doctorate?      
How to Address a Retired Officer who is a Physician, Officially?     
How to Address a Retired Officer who is a Physician, Socially?      
How to Address a Retired Officer who is also a Professor?      
How to Address a Retired Officer who is also a Dean?      

How Do I Address a Former Official?
Link to Q&A /Blog just on Former Officials  (not Military)

Can an Officer Be Addressed With a Higher Rank?
      Can a retired USCG Commander (O-5) use the title Rear Admiral in his civilian job? The retired officer in question is a USCG O-5 Commander and is allowing himself to be addressed as Rear Admiral, additionally, his name tag indicates he is a Rear Admiral. Is this proper?
              -- Joni

Dear Joni:
   If he is retired, what sort of position he is holding that he is wearing a name tag?
   There is a practice within the armed services when an officer is in a billet that would/should be held by a higher rank ... the officer may be addressed that with the higher rank while in that office. Typically it would be an officer in command where an officer holding the standard rank for the office is available.

   And there are some positions which carry the rank of "Rear Admiral." Officers of the United States Maritime Service, or USMS, serve as administrators and instructors at the several maritime academies around the nation, and the superintendents of those academies carry the title Rear Admiral, USMS, regardless of what rank that individual might have held in their military service.  They would wear the Admiral’s rank on their academy’s uniform and be addressed as Admiral. Could the person you mention be one of those?
   -- Robert Hickey

      Perhaps this is a case such as you mention and he is just carrying on the tradition of being addressed as 'Admiral' because the previous supervisor actually was a retired Admiral. However, this position is in the private sector; it isn't a case of no one else being available to hold the standard rank required for the billet. Perhaps, the title came with the job!
       My reason for asking is because my husband is a retired officer and my son is still serving. It just feels a bit 'off' whenever I hear someone call him 'Admiral' or see him wearing his 'Admiral' name tag when he did not earn the rank.
       I wonder if I should speak up about it to anyone, or if it is none of my business?

              -- Joni

Dear Joni:
    A person's name is what they say it is, and it's not up to others to determine if it is correct or not.  So I would address him as he requests.
    He would not be addresses as Admiral at the Pentagon. Just know that IF he's a retired 0-5 commander: having everyone address him as an "admiral" does not change his retirement pay!

   -- Robert Hickey

How to Sign a Letter as a Gray-area Retiree?
     I am a retired US Army Reserve Captain (Gray-area Retiree). One of my former soldiers (still serving), has requested a letter of recommendation from me to help him achieve a career goal.
     I know that I can no longer use a military letterhead, and I intend to refer to myself as either
CPT(R) Kenneth Norris, or Kenneth Norris, Captain, Retired.

      
-- KC Norris

Dear CPT Norris:
    The DOD guidelines do not suggest either of the forms you mention: CPT(R) Kenneth Morrison or Kenneth Morrison, Captain, Retired. 
    The forms DOD guidelines suggest for retired armed service personnel are:
            Captain Kenneth Norris, USA, Retired
                        or
            Captain Kenneth Norris, USA, Ret.
 
    The forms DOD guidelines suggest for retired armed service personnel are:
            Captain Kenneth Norris, USA, Retired
                        or
            Captain Kenneth Norris, USA, Ret.
    1) If you want to use the Army's service-specific abbreviation for captain: CPT.
    2) Being a grey-area retiree does not affect these forms of address.
    3) The advice I get from Protocol at the Pentagon is that everyone retires from the same Army, and while USAR is used by reservists when active, USA is used by all retirees. 
    I know some retired reserve officers use
AUS. In Chapter 1: Heritage, Customs, and Courtesies of the Army of the 50th Edition of Army Officer's Guide, by LTC Keith E. Bonn, USA, Retired
(2008, Stackpole Books), he states under Use of Titles by Retired Personnel"Official signatures will include the designated retired status after the grade, thus, "USA Retired" will be used by members on the U.S. Army Retired List (Regulars); "AUS Retired" will be used by those on the Army of the United States List."
     On the other hand, the advice I get from the Association of the US Army and protocol at the Pentagon is that
AUS is an older, still correct form, but is a less frequently used post nominal. For the moment I am going to keep following the DoD style manual and what the protocol team at the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon suggests for retired personnel: USA, Retired.
    4) I am always interested in parallel patterns in forms of address. While I accept the fact that it won't convince everyone, the USN, USAF, and USMC use only one post-nominal for both active and retired. Not that the Army would not have its own traditions -- but as an outsider -- what other organizations do supports the reasonableness of a single post-nominal style.
                 -- Robert Hickey

Grey-area or Gray-area Retiree?  A or E?
         I believe you are “the man” I need to speak to insure a spelling issue!
         Is the proper spelling for a retired guard/reservist not collecting pension: Gray-area Retiree or Grey-area Retiree? I emailed PA on the DoD website, didn't get a good answer!
        -- Ken Baumgarten

Dear Mr. Baumgarten:
        It's not a DoD issue.  Both are acceptable spellings to describe a color that is neither black nor white.
        BUT in dictionaries, "gray" with an "A" is the first spelling in the dictionary
... "grey" with an "E" is noted to be an alternate spelling. E.g., Merriam-Webster calls  "grey"  a variant of "gray."
        So I vote for gray-area.
        -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Retired Member of the National Guard?
     I am reading your book, and you cover the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. I have a question on the proper addressing of a Retired National Guard Command Sergeant Major. After his name, would it be USA, Retired or USANG Retired? Thank you!

          -- Becky Kozik

Dear Ms. Kozik:
     Well, actually, I am not familiar with the post nominal USANG ....
    I am more familiar with USA .. for the United Stated Army ... and ANG .. for the Air National Guard:
                  Lt Gen William Smith, USA, Retired
                  Lt Gen Harry M. Wyatt, ANG, Retired

    BUT ... I admit I am not the ultimate authority on military post-nominal abbreviations! 
    (Reader: if you know more about this ... let me know. I'm always interested in better information.)

    However, I do know that if you are retired from the United States Naval Reserve, USNR, you use USNR, Retired ... and you do not use
USN as would someone who retired from standard, non-reserve, United States Navy who uses USN, Retired.
    If based on that standard practice, then if he retired from the  ANG ...then he would continue to use that post-nominal abbreviation.
                 Command Sergent Major (full name), ANG, Retired

       -- Robert Hickey

Robert
   I really do appreciate your prompt and thorough response.  I think your response makes absolute sense and it helps confirm what I was thinking.  Thank you again!

          -- V/R, BK

May I Decide Whether or Not I Want to Address a Retired Officer as Mr./Ms. Rather Than by Their Rank?
      Greetings. I belong to a
Los Angeles volunteer non-profit non-military organization. The problem is that we have some members who are retired O-6 and above, who during a meeting insist that they be addressed by their rank.
       We have asked them to leave their rank at the door, since we have members who are not military and are not impressed by their ranks. These persons have refused to do so and it is creating a serious problem. We ask that they refrain from using their rank ONLY during the meeting, where Robert's Rules are used.
       How can we solve this problem?

             -- Richard Brewster

Dear Mr. Brewster:
     If you are addressing others at the meeting as:
              (Honorific)+(Surname)
  
            Mr. Brewster
 
             Ms. Henderson
  
            Dr. Johnson
  
      
      Pastor Taylor
    Then the correct and form of address for a retired officer follows the same formula:
 
             General Wilson
   
           Admiral Smith
    You could avoid the issue by holding the meeting
on a first name basis ... no last names used by anyone.
    But officers of O-6 and above (with certain "commercial" exceptions) use their rank as their honorific in retirement.
    The use of their rank is not to impress anyone any more or less than using Dr., Pastor, or Professor is used impress ... it's who they are.
    I would say it's completely predictable that they would not accept your suggestion to leave their rank at the door.
    Let's turn this around: Suppose you are in an organization and were told that others in the group that have a problem with your name. You can come to the meeting, but you have to leave your name at the door. At the meeting you would be addressed in a way they chose, so those who object won't have to deal with your name. 
    What would you think of that organization?

   
          -- Robert Hickey

Retired: Spelled Out or Abbreviated?
    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:
            BG
Arthur Portnoy, USA, Ret.
            BG
Arthur Portnoy, USA, Retired
    [DoD documents show the form as: (rank) (full name) (USN, USMC, or other branch) (Ret.) but that is not meant to include Ret. in parentheses.]
    DOD people like the service-specific abbreviations because they can tell that a BG is 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

Retired: In Parentheses or Not?
Dear Mr. Hickey,
      Regarding your advice to write one’s name when retired.
                MSgt Trevor Ross USAF (Ret.) 
      With the parentheses as shown above is the correct way to signify for retirees -- not as you advised.
 
                   -- T.R.

Dear TR:
       Thanks for your note, but I disagree. Either of these forms is correct:
            MSgt Trevor Ross, USAF, Retired
            MSgt Trevor Ross, USAF, Ret.
      Here’s why: the DoD stylebook suggests:
           (Rank) (Name), (Branch of Service), (Ret.)
      Every protocol officer I’ve polled (and that is a large number including the offices of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of the Army) all say the DoD stylebook is not suggesting to include parentheses around
Ret. anymore than it is suggesting to put parentheses around the (Rank) or (Name).
       So while I agree you do see people using the parentheses around Ret.… I follow the lead of those at the protocol officers at the top of the Pentagon .... and they all say "no parentheses."
               -- Robert Hickey


Should I Use USMC, Retired or USMCR, Retired:
I Served in Both the USMC and the USMCR?

       I enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on 10/17/1985, went to boot camp 05/28/86, was in the Marine Corps Reserve 09/86 to 9/90, active duty 10/1/1990, entered OCS commissioned 12/7/90, was on active duty through 7/1/97, went in to the Marine Corps Reserve from 07/97 - 11/1/05 when I retired as a Major.
       Should I list myself as Major, USMCR (retired) or Major, USMC (retired)?
       Does the Marine Corps still use the abbreviation USMCR?
       Any advice is appreciated--I just want to be sure I list it properly.
             -- Paul

Dear Paul,
 
  Before you retired -- USMC and USMCR were pertinent --but now you are simply retired from the Marines.
    The direct forms of address suggested by the DOD manuals are as follows, without parentheses:
         Major Paul J. Dexter, USMC, Retired
            Or:
         Major Paul J. Dexter, USMC, Ret.
    Sometimes you see in a list of names:
         Paul J. Dexter (Major, USMC, Retired)
    ... but that's not a direct form of address. It would be an editorial style if other names appeared without honorifics and somehow your retired status was pertinent.

     
       -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Retired Officer of Unknown Rank?
      I don't know the exact rank of an individual, but I know that he was a Ranger, and I know that he commanded men. He served in Vietnam, and saw a lot of fighting. 
     He also retired from the Military, and from our company.  He was a great guy and I greatly respect his military service and his work.  We are sending him a gift card as a surprise, and I wanted to address the card in a respectful manner.
     How would you suggest I address the card?  I've already checked with personnel, but they have put his file away and are no help.
     I appreciate your help.

        -- Ann Robinson

Dear Ms. Robinson:
   
It's really great you want to honor this gentleman and his service.
    1) Members of military groups such as Paratroopers, Rangers, and Navy Seals, have a military rank ... such as Lieutenant  or Captain. Use his military rank with his name, and then in an introduction identify him as a member of "XXX unit."
    
         Captain James Wilson, Member of the United States Army Rangers ... etc.
    2) Retired military can use -- or decide not to use -- their military rank in their post-military career.
    So if you don't know his rank --- and the personnel dept. doesn't know -- and he didn't ask his colleagues to address him as "Captain James Wilson" ... then I suggest you follow his lead and not address him with a rank and address the card to Mr. James Wilson.   He would be the one to express his preference to continue use of his military rank. 
     3) You say he's a Ranger. I do cover forms of address for the Texas Rangers in my book .... so let me know if that's the kind of "ranger" you are talking about.
    Back to your guy .... maybe you can include in the card a note saying that you are aware of his service to the country and how much you admire his actions and bravery?   That might accomplish your goal!

      -- Robert Hickey

How to Identify a Retired Officer on a Document?
    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

How to Socially Address An Invitation to
An Officer
(Who Is an M.D.) & His Spouse?
      My fiance and I are having a terrible time addressing some of our envelopes for our wedding. We have a number of high-ranking military officials that are retired and are medical doctors.
      For example we have a three star retired general (US Army) -- a Lieutenant General who is a physician.
      How do I write this: Lieutenant General James Doe, MD, Retired and Mrs. Janice Doe???
      Does Mrs. Janice Doe go on another line I would assume?
      We are including the women's names on our envelopes because I am a bit of a feminist and hate the idea of leaving off any reference to the woman's identity.
      Thanks for your help!
        -- Carrie Worsham

Dear Ms. Worsham,
    The most formal forms, e.g. how The White House would address an invitation to a Lieutenant General and his wife.  (BTW, they use my book.)
    1) No M.D.: Never use an academic degree with a military rank.
    2) The name of the person with the rank goes first.
    3) You can address your wedding invitations however you like, but as you infer it's traditional that when a couple uses the same last name ... and the woman uses "Mrs." ... woman's first name is not included.    
    Traditionally use of Mrs. (first name) + (last name) indicates a woman is divorced -- e.g., it's how she would be listed on a wedding invitation if they were no longer married, but she and her former husband were hosting the wedding.
    4) Branch of service and retired status are not used on social correspondence.
  
      So on the mailing envelope:
 
           Lieutenant General James Doe
     
     
      and Mrs. Doe
         
   
       (address)
  
      And on the inside envelope you use 'conversational forms":
      
      General Doe and Mrs. Doe
   
    Or if they are family or very close friends
       
     Jim and Janice
   
        Uncle Jim and Aunt Janice
            -- Robert Hickey

How to Write the Official Name
of A Retired Military Physician?

     I am framing a photo for my husband Robert who was at the time the photo was a recently-retired medical doctor (Captain) from the U. S. Navy.  If I include a label below the photo, should it say, name-rank-M.D., or rank-name-M.D,
rank-name-Medical Corps or only rank-name?
    I would sincerely appreciate any wisdom you could lend to my dilemma.
        -- Janice Larsen

Dear Ms. Larsen,
    As a retired officer the the official form of his name would be:
        Captain Robert Larsen, USN, Ret.

    or ...
        Captain Robert Larsen, USN, Retired

    1) Professional post-nominal abbreviations are not used with a rank, so no M.D.
    2) Protocol officers consistently maintain that one retires from the USN, not a corp within the USN, so just USN is enough. The DoD style manuals don't include the 'corp' designations in their samples for retired personnel as it does with active-duty personnel: Captain Robert Larsen, MC, USN.  I don't know that it's wrong to include the corps with a retired name, but I just know they don't show it as a suggested form. I only try and interpret what the DoD puts out, and they don't include it.
    3) Everyone in the armed services is addressed by their rank -- whether they are a fighter pilot, commandant, doctor, lawyer, or mechanic. Next comes their branch of service, Last is a notation of their retired status if they are retired.

            -- Robert Hickey

How to Address Retired Enlisted Personnel?
      How to I address someone who was enlisted and is now retired? 
     -- Ricky

Dear Ricky,
      All U.S. fully retired armed services personnel are addressed using the same two formulae:
                  (Rank) (Full Name), (Branch of Service), (Retired)
                  (Rank) (Full Name), (Branch of Service), (Ret.)
            So if you are addressing, for example, a USAF Chief Master Sergeant, it will look like:
                  Chief Master Sergeant William Smith, USAF, Retired
                  Chief Master Sergeant William Smith, USAF, Ret.
                  CMSgt William Smith, USAF, Retired
                  CMSgt William Smith, USAF, Ret.
      The first two are with the rank fully spelled out. The second two use the U.S. Air Force's service-specific abbreviation for the rank. All the services have service-specific abbreviations. Either is O.K. I give all the service-specific abbreviations in my book should you need to look them up on a regular basis.
      There is no difference between addressing retired officers and enlisted: Use of rank by fully retired personnel is at the preference of the bearer (most frequently it's 0-6 and above.) with certain limitations (established by the U.S. Department of Defense) as to how the rank is used in other than purely social situations.
      I guess the only caveat here is to know if they are fully retired or a veteran.

            -- Robert Hickey

How Do I Address Retired Flag Officers?
Dear Robert:
What is the proper way to address retired flag officers? I have continued to address them as Admiral or General, especially those that I knew when I was in the service (Navy).

    --- Chip


Dear Chip:
    In conversation retired officers continue to be addressed with rank (or when their rank was a graded rank ... with their basic rank):
           General (name)
or Admiral (name)
    Perhaps the only exception is when a retired officer takes a civilian job in retirement, and works with active duty personnel ... as happens in Washington, DC. ... e.g,, when a retired Air Force general takes a job at The Boeing Company selling airplanes to the Air Force.  Then he'll use Mr. (name) professionally. In the book Service Etiquette by Oretha D. Swartz (Naval Institute Press; Annapolis, MD; 1988) notes these restrictions are in connection with "commercial enterprises." 
          -- Robert Hickey

How to Write Military Rank & "Retired" On An Invitation
     Could you please assist with the proper wording of a wedding invitation for my son's wedding? My husband retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the United States Marine Corps, and although the bride's parents are issuing the wedding invitation, our names will appear on the invitation.  The reason for this is that the private club at which my husband (not the bride's family) is a member requires that the name of the club member appear on social invitations.
     My question is whether designation as a "Retired" Marine Corps officer must be indicated on the wedding invitation?  The major problem is that my husband's name and title cover the entire length of the invitation, and there are no more spaces to include (Retired, USMC) on that line.  The bride's family has wondered if guests might assume that my husband is still on active duty.  Our stationer's research with Crane Paper Company (Crane's Blue Book of Stationery) states "When the bride's father is an officer and issues the wedding invitations with his wife, his military title precedes his name."
     The current wording goes something like this:

Dr. and Mrs. Edward Thompson Smith
request the honor of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter
Jane Anne Smith
to
Mr. Alexander William Wilson
son of
Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs. William Wilson
 (Date)
 (Time)
 (Place)
 (City)

                                                                                    -- Annie G.

Dear Annie:
    What you've suggested looks good with some comments:
    1) Including the "USMC" and "Retired" would be important at an official event where active-duty officers and retired officers were attending in an official capacity.
    At this social occasion there won't be confusion whether the "Lt. Col." is there in an official capacity.
    2) There also a style of abbreviations used by the armed forces: DOD Abbreviations for Ranks and Ratings, These are service specific -- LTC for the Army, LtCol for the Marines, Lt Col for the Air Force. Capitalization, spaces, and lack of punctuation are as noted. These are always used at official armed forces occasions. Many military protocol officers use them as social events as well. Using them would be immediately understandable to service personnel, but might seem unusual to some civilians.
    3) What Crane means by "When the bride's father is an officer and issues the wedding invitation with his wife, his military title precedes his name" is that the most formal way to write the names would be for the "title" to immediately precede the name:
       
Dr. John Edward Smith and Mrs. Smith
        Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Oliver Volentine Green and Mrs. Green


    The "Dr. and Mrs." and the "Lt. Col. and Mrs." are less formal forms.
    The "title immediately preceding the name" is more of an issue with very high officials such as
       
The Honorable John Edward Smith and Mrs. Smith
        The Reverend John Edward Smith and Mrs. Smith


    In these case you want to avoid...
      
  The Honorable and Mrs. John Edward Smith.
        The Reverend and Mrs. John Edward Smith

                          -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Retired Military Officer & Spouse?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
Where in your book do you cover how I address should an envelope to a retired Lt. Col. in the Air Force and his wife?
             --- Living near the Base

Dear Living near the Base:
     Use the forms I show under Joint Forms of Address, Members of the Armed Services on page 147.
    Formal forms for an OFFICIAL envelope would be:
            Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Thompson, USAF, Retired
       
         and Mrs. Thompson
                      Address

     NOTE ON THE ABOVE FORM: Including a spouse using the "official" form is odd: if you are including a spouse the correspondence is by definition social -- and post-nominals are not used on social correspondence (See note #4 below.) But maybe this would be used for an official USAF event when he's being invited as a retired officer, to attend in uniform and to participate in some official capacity, and she is specifically included?  Anyway, if your event is social where the officer is being invited as a person and not as an official ... keep reading.
   Formal forms for a SOCIAL envelope would be:
            Lieutenant Colonel  Robert W. Thompson
      
          and Mrs. Thompson
      
              Address
   Or using the Service-Specific Abbreviation (see notes #1, 2 & 3 below):
 
           Lt Col Robert W. Thompson
  
              and Mrs. Thompson
   
                Address
1) Spelling out the rank is always the most formal: In the armed services, they do use the service-specific abbreviations.
2) Lt Col -- capitalized, spaced as shown, and without periods -- is the USAF-specific form of the abbreviation for a Lieutenant Colonel. The Army and Marine Corps have their own service-specific abbreviations.
3) Abbreviations with the periods -- Lt. Col. -- are the form you will see in "social etiquette books."   They don't use them in the armed services (note #2), but there is nothing wrong with them.
4) "Branch of Service" and 'Retired" are not used on social correspondence.
5) The most formal way to write an official person's name is to not break up the rank and the name ... hence his name is on one line and Mrs. Thompson is on the next line -- not mixed up his rank and his name.
    And Finally ... Less Formally:
    All that said, a holiday card may be addressed using an informal form of address which combines the names such as:
             Lt. Col. and Mrs. Robert W. Thompson
                   Address
    This last one is not what I'd suggest, but it will get your letter delivered.
     -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Professor Who is A
Retired Officer from the Armed Services?

     Would you by any chance know the proper form of address for a USN Captain who is now a university professor with a PhD?  I read the note on your website regarding context (Captain when he's my commanding officer, Doctor when he's bandaging my foot, or something to that effect), but I wonder what would be suitable with an academic doctor, and in a more formal usage.  I've encountered "Captain Doctor [name]" once or twice on the Internet, but it seems a bit of a mouthful.
             --- P. L. Scott

Dear Mr. Scott:
   
I cover this on page 99 in my book.
    1) Re: "Captain Doctor": As a
In the United States we only use just one honorific at a time. Orally on in a salutation he would be Dr. (name), Professor (name) or even Captain (name),  
    2) Retired officers are entitled to use their ranks socially. But usually when they take another job in retirement, they use forms of address that support the subsequent job -- like the form I provide for professor. So, ask him his preference. He may use both at various times, but he'll clarify what he prefers when in his professorial role.
           -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Retired Officer Who is A Dean?
     In your book you cover academics and every rank of officer. But, how would I address an envelope to a captain retired from the US Navy, who now is the dean of a college?
             --- O.S.

Dear O.S.:
    A retired officer is entitled to be addressed by rank socially.
    BUT in a new professional role retired officers will almost always choose to be addressed in a way pertinent to that new role.
    An academic dean
is addressed as:
       (Full name), (Post-nominal abbreviation for his degree)
     
       Dean of (name of school, college, etc.)
         
       (Name of College/University)
             
   
   (Address)
    The salutation would be:
            Dear Dr. (Surname),
    He is always Dr. (Surname) but you could certainly address him as Dean (Surname) if you are interacting with him as The Dean ... And call him Dean (name) in conversations with regard to his actions as a dean.
    So back to my first comment ... about retired officers being entitled to be addressed by rank. If for some reason he wants to be addressed as "Captain" ... a rank is never used with "Dr." or an academic post-nominal abbreviation.
           -- Robert Hickey

Do You Use "Retired" on Certificates?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
    I will be requesting the White House to send a 50th Wedding Anniversary greeting to my parents.  My father (John W. Linton) served in the Navy for 25 years, and retired as a Captain after a decorated career (5 Distinguished Flying Crosses!) as an attack pilot in Vietnam and into the 1980's.  Is is appropriate for me to request that the Anniversary greetings from the White House be addressed to him using his retired designation?
        -- Jeanne Russell

Dear Ms. Russell:
    Since the greeting is from the Commander-in-Chief -- the official form -- is the right one to use with your father's name:
     
           Captain John W. Linton, USN Retired
    -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Retired Officer Who Has a Doctorate?
     How does one, in written form, address a retired BGen (USAF) who has his PhD?  He goes by “Dr. Taylor” now that he is retired, but management also wants to acknowledge his service as well as his degree.
                BGen Henry Taylor, PhD, USAF (Ret)?
                BGen Henry Taylor, USAF (Ret), PhD?
               
Dr. Henry Taylor, BGen, USAF (Ret)?
    Thank you,
         --- Bill Montgomery


Dear Mr. Montgomery:
    Three part answer:
    You say he 'goes by Dr. Taylor now. When retired officers represent private companies to the armed services ... they frequently skip using their rank when dealing with active-duty officers. So in spite of management's desire to bring his former rank into the picture, I'd get back to management that the best course is to follow his preference, but it would be appropriate introduce him as "May I introduce Dr. Henry Taylor. Dr. Taylor is a retired United States Air Force Brigadier General."
    Now on to the details:
      #1  There is an American tradition that we only give a person one title at time.
            **  If he prefers to be continued to be addressed as a Brigadier General
                  then use the form I have on Brigadier General
            **  if he prefers now to be addressed as a Doctor
                  use the form I have on Doctorate
    I say "American tradition" because the "British tradition" is to give a person EVERYTHING they would ever get ... so you see names like The Right Honourable Reverend Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Lord William Ramsey, MP, VC ....  But in the US we address a person with the one "honorific" or "courtesy title" that's appropriate to the situation .... who they are to us at the moment.
     #2 Regarding you use of abbreviations: "BGen" is the DOD service-specific abbreviation used by Marine Brigadier Generals.   The DOD service-specific abbreviation for USAF Brigadier Generals is "Brig Gen"
    #3 You see "Retired" noted many ways ... but use EITHER of the following ... to (Ret)
  
          Brig Gen Henry Taylor, USAF, Ret.
  
       
  Brig Gen Henry Taylor, USAF, Retired
    For future use of abbreviations, my books has all that. It answers your questions on page 94 (use of retired with retired officers) and page 97 (DOD USAF abbreviations). 
          -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Retired Officer Below O-6?
        I was wondering if you could tell me what is the appropriate way to address a retired Air Force Captain O-3 when having an informal conversation.  I was not sure if Air Force captains hold their title after retirement.  Don't only Generals and Colonels continues to use their ranks?
        -- Adam Scott

Dear Mr. Scott:
     Anyone who retires from one of the services is entitled to continue to use of his or her rank as an honorific. This includes officers as well as enlisted personnel.
    Those who resign their commission do not continue to use their rank as an honorific. The Navy instruction directive: OPNAVINST 171O.7A, Social Usage and Protocol Handbook: A Guide for Personnel of the U.S. Navy outlines how to use ranks and ratings when addressing active duty and retired personnel ... without regard to the level of their rank or rating.
 
       -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Retired Reservist?
    How do you write then name of a retired reservist?
         -- Dave S.

Dear Dave S.:
       I find different information in different DoD manuals. But when I've checked with protocol officers at the Pentagon and representatives of reserve organizations, the concensus is that when one retires the reference to "Reserve" disappears. The formula is [Rank] [Full Name], [Abbreviation for Branch of Service], Retired.  Writing Ret. rather than
Retired is also O.K.
       In the following samples I've used the service-specific abbreviations for rank.  It would also be correct to spell the ranks out fully.  Here's the way they would look based on the forms recommended by DoD style manuals:
       ARMY
             While Serving      GEN John Johnson, USAR
             When Retired      GEN John Johnson, USA, Retired
             Note on Army: The form GEN John Johnson, AUS is also used by retired
                personnel, but it not the
form shown in the DoD style manuals I've seen.
                My understanding is it an older form, still correct, 
but not as frequently used.
       MARINES
             While Serving       Gen Patrick Harris, USMCR
             When Retired       Gen Patrick Harris, USMC, Retired
       AIR FORCE
             While Serving      Gen Andrew Harris, USAFR
             When Retired      Gen Andrew Harris, USAF, Retired
       NAVY
             While Serving      ADM John Johnson, USNR
             When Retired      ADM John Johnson, USN, Retired
            Note on Navy: The form ADM John Johnson, USNR, Retired is also used by retired
                personnel and is suggested in OPNAVINST 1710.7A.  But the officials I've interviewed
                say once retired everyone is just USN -- which would be in line with the other services. 

       COAST GUARD
             While Serving      ADM John Johnson, USCGR
             When Retired      ADM John Johnson, USCG, Retired
 
                    -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Retired Judge Advocate General's Corp?
    Robert, what are the rules for properly showing the name, etc, of a retired Commander of the Reserve of the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps; e.g.,
        Commander John J. Doe III, JAGC, USNR, Retired?
        CDR John J. DOE III, JAGC, USNR-Ret.?

    Many thanks --Joe

Dear Joe:
       One’s former command isn’t necessarily included in formal correspondence according to Navy style references. He's retired from the USN, not the JAGC. And once retired the notation of being in the reserve" is dropped ... everyone is just retired USN. The recommended forms include:
        Commander John J. Doe III, USN, Retired
            or
        CDR John J. Doe III, USN, Retired
            or
        Commander John J. Doe III, USN Ret.
            or
        CDR John J. Doe III, USN Ret.
    1) Use of the service-specific abbreviations of rank is standard by the services, but outside the services civilians typically don't understand them,
    2) DoD Style Manuals suggest "Retired" or "Ret."
    3)
If you want to note that the retired officer was JAGC ... I would include it orally in an introduction, or after the name when providing additional information.

 
                    -- Robert Hickey

What Do I Write a Return Address with a Military Rank?    
   I have recently married a retired USN commander.  What is the proper way to have return mail address labels printed?  We would like to use them on our Christmas cards. Should it be ...
      Commander and Mrs. Franklin Harrow, USN, Ret.?
      Cmdr. and Mrs. Franklin Harrow?

                       -- Mary Ann Harrow

Dear Mrs. Harrow:
Socially and informally ... you can use:
    Commander and Mrs. Franklin Harrow
        (Address)
Nothing wrong with Cmdr. if you are pressed for space on a label.

FYI
1) The social books -- I edited the most recent version of the the Crane's Blue Book of Stationery -- give the civilian answer modeled after "Mr. and Mrs." and spells out the rank:
        Commander and Mrs. Franklin Harrow
2) In the most formal use, Armed Services style manuals suggest that one does not break up "Rank" from "Name."  So most formally it should read:
        Commander Franklin Harrow
             and Mrs. Harrow
 
    Also correct is to use the USN's service-specific abbreviation (all caps, no punctuation) for Commander:
        CDR Franklin Harrow
             and Mrs. Harrow

3) USN, Ret. after his name isn't required on social stationery like a holiday card ... IT IS used on official stationery. So if your husband were writing a letter to the newspaper's editor, and he wanted to be sure everyone knew he was not writing it as an active duty 'Commander" or if were being invited to a military function where there were "active duty" officers involved he'd be
        CDR Franklin Harrow, USN Ret.

         -- Robert Hickey


Not Finding Your Question Answered?
Below are other topics covered in my blog and at right is a list of officials, Between the two I probably have what you are looking for.
     After hunting around a bit, if you don't see your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day (unless I am traveling.)
      If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – with your name and any personal specifics changed.
      -- Robert Hickey

USE OF NAMES & HONORIFICS   
Mr., Miss, Jr., III, & Names        
Married Women       
Deceased Persons         
People with Two Titles
Post-Nominal Abbreviations and Initials         
 
Couples: Private Citizens / Joint Forms of Address 
Couples: U.S. Military / Joint Forms of Address     
Couples: U.S. Officials / Joint Forms of Address      

USE OF SPECIFIC OFFICIAL TITLES        
Former Officials            
Professionals and Academics        

United States Federal Officials, Currently In Office             
United States State Officials, Currently In Office              
United States Municipal Officials, Currently In Office             
       All About The Honorable with U.S. Officials         
       Former United States Officials of all types             
United States Armed Services, Active Duty             
       Addressing Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Veterans      

Tribal Officials 
           
Clergy and Religious Officials           
Canadian Officials         
Australian Officials          
British Officials, Royalty, and Nobility        
Diplomats and International Representatives
           
Foreign National Officials and Nobility        

SPECIFIC SITUATIONS
Business Cards       
Couples        
Etiquette
            
Flags and Anthem Protocol             
Introductions
            
Invitations: Writing & Addressing
        
Invitations: Just Armed Service Personnel        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
         
Thank You Notes             


Site updated by Robert Hickey on November 15, 2014


     Back to Main Page of the Robert Hickey's BLOG 

Robert Hickey is the author of Honor & Respect:
The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address
Published by The Protocol School of Washington®
Foreword by Pamela Eyring

Copyright © 2014 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.