How to Address Retired Military?

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   1. Formula For
       How to Address     
   2. Use of Rank by
       Retired Military    

   3. Q&A on
       How to Address
       Retired Military   
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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 6 April 2020

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 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
            Captain Kenneth Norris, USA, Ret.
    The forms DOD guidelines suggest for retired armed service personnel are:
            Captain Kenneth Norris, USA, Retired
            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:
    I am not familiar with the post nominal USANG ....
    I am 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! 
    However, I do know that if you are retired from the United States Naval Reserve, USNR, you use USN, Retired ... just like everyone else 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

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:
            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 Portnow, USA, Retired
             Brigadier General
Arthur Portnow, USA, Ret.
    You may want to consider for your database using the service-specific abbreviations for the ranks:
Arthur Portnow, USA, Retired
Arthur Portnow, USA, Ret.
    [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), (Retired)
           (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 USA, Retired or USA, Retired?
       Even with I was on active duty, I was a reservist. Now that I am retired should I list myself as:
            Major Paul J. Dexter, USAR (retired)
                 Or simply:
           Major Paul J. Dexter, USA (retired)?

             -- Paul

Dear Paul,
    Before you retired noting your reserve status was pertinent.  But now that you are retired, you are simply retired from the "service".  Your question is about the Army, but the pattern is the same in all the U.S. armed services: USA, USMC, USN, USAF ...
     The forms of address suggested by the DOD manuals are as follows, without parentheses around 'retired' and either 'Retired' fully spelled out or as 'Ret.':
         Major Paul J. Dexter, USA, Retired
         Major Paul J. Dexter, USA, Ret.

       -- 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
      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
     How do I write the name of a parent on a wedding invitation if the officer is retired from the United States Marine Corps?  Should "Retired" and "Marine Corps" be indicated on the wedding invitation? Should I spell out Lieutenant Colonel or can I abbreviate it?
      -- Annie G.

Dear Annie G.:
    1) Neither branch of service [e.g. USMC], nor noting retired vs. active status are included on social correspondence. These are included on official correspondence where active-duty officers and retired officers were attending in an official capacity.
    2) There are abbreviations used by the Armed Services: 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 events. 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 civilians.

    -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Retired Military Officer & Spouse?
How do 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:
     First off, there are two ways to address this couple in writing: the official way and the social way. (Use the forms I show under Joint Forms of Address, Members of the Armed Services.)
    The forms for an OFFICIAL envelope would be:
            (Rank) (Full Name), (Initials for the Branch of Service), Retired
         and Mrs. (Surname Only)

     This would be used for an 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:
            (Rank) (Full Name)
          and Mrs. (Surname Only)
     1) Spelling out the rank is always the most formal: In the armed services, they use the service-specific abbreviations.  If you know them, there are service-specific form of the abbreviation the ranks.
     2) Abbreviations with the periods -- e.g., 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.
     3) "Branch of Service" and 'Retired" are not used on social correspondence.
     4) 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.

     -- 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)
    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.:
       When one retires the reference to "Reserve" disappears.
       The formula is:
              [Rank] [Full Name], [Abbreviation for Branch of Service], Retired. 
       Both Ret. and
Retired are suggested in DoD style guides.
       In the following samples I've used the service-specific abbreviations for rank.  It would also be correct to spell the ranks out fully:
             While Serving      GEN John Johnson, USAR
             When Retired      GEN John Johnson, USA, Retired
             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
             While Serving      ADM John Johnson, USNR
             When Retired      ADM John Johnson, USN, Retired

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

How to Include A Former Command When
One Addresses Retired Reserve Personnel?

    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 Doe, JAGC, USNR, Retired
        CDR John DOE, JAGC, USNR, Ret.


Dear Joe:
       One’s former command isn’t 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 Doe, USN, Retired
        CDR John Doe, USN, Retired
        Commander John Doe, USN, Ret.
        CDR John Doe, 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.  rather than
(Retired) or (Ret.)  You see the references to "retired" in parentheses used by some retirees, but protocol at the Pentagon says: no parentheses.
If you want to note that the retired officer was JAGC ... I would include it orally in an introduction, 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
Nothing wrong with Cmdr. if you are pressed for space on a label.

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?
(1) At left is a list offices/officials covered and (2) below are other topics covered in my blog. Between the two I probably have what you are looking for.
     But after checking both lists 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 – but I always change the names and specifics.
      -- Robert Hickey

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

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
       Addressing Active Duty Personnel              
       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        

Author's Name on His/Her Book       
Business Cards, Names on
Introductions, Names in
Invitations: Names on
Invitations: Names of Armed Service Personnel on        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates, Names on    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
Tombstones, Names on      

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 6 April 2020

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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

Available in   Hardcover   /  Kindle   /  Apple Book

Copyright © 2020 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.