What’s with The Salvation Army uniform?

Salvation Army officer uniform

Written by Lieutenant Grant Holloway, Brainerd Salvation Army pastor and administrator

Every officer and soldier of The Salvation Army is given a uniform. If you haven’t seen the uniform, it’s very simple. We choose between navy blue or black for our socks, pants, blazer, and tie, and then pair those items with a white shirt and black shoes.

I like to refer to my uniform as my “super suit.” That’s partly because on every uniform you will find two “S” symbols on the shoulder area of the blazer. (Keep reading to learn what these actually mean.)

As an officer, I wear my uniform most days. Don’t get me wrong, there are days that I wish I could spruce my uniform up with some fun and brightly colored socks to match my personality. And, there are days where I wish that I could go in our town out of uniform, and just be me. But in our community, I am my uniform. I am Lieutenant Grant Holloway of The Salvation Army.

It is amazing how many people will come up to me at a restaurant, grocery store, coffee shop, or even just at our office to share with me their stories of The Salvation Army, all because they recognize and see the uniform.

What the Uniform Means

The other day, my wife and I took some of The Salvation Army church kids out for lunch. They were helping us with a project in our building and we wanted to thank them. Much to my dismay, I was outvoted as to where we were going to eat. I’ll be honest – I have a one track mind sometimes, especially when it comes to food. If I want something, I can’t stop thinking about it until that craving is fulfilled.

We arrived at the selected restaurant. My wife and the two kids ordered, then went to find a table. I was alone with the cashier. She looked at my uniform and asked if I was a part of The Salvation Army. I replied “yes.” She then told me this beautiful story from her childhood: More than 40 years ago, The Salvation Army came every day in the summer with boxed lunches. Her first and only summer camp experience was also with The Salvation Army. She said she will never forget the love that was shown to her by the Salvation Army officers when she was a child.

Immediately, all my concerns about what to eat were taken away. We talked for a few more minutes. I thanked her for telling me her story, invited her to church, and then proceeded to join my group.

Here’s the lesson I learned that day: You never know the impact that you will have on someone’s life. For this woman, The Salvation Army and the officers serving there during her youth had made a huge impact.

My own life is a great example of how one person changed another’s life in a way that even impacted their family line. I’m only a believer and a Salvation Army officer today, because a previous officer brought my parents to church and led them to a relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s why I try to live out what the two “S” symbols on the shoulders really stand for: “saved to serve.”

Saved to Serve

Every single one of us has a calling, and that is to serve and love everyone in our world. Christ gives us this commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves in Mark 12:31.

Everyone has needs. For some it’s physical, such as needing a box of food. For some it’s emotional, such as needing someone to listen to them and tell them that it’s going to be alright. For others it’s spiritual, such as needing someone to pray with them. We are called to love the whole world just as Christ has first loved us (John 13:34). In The Salvation Army, we seek to meet all three types of needs, physical, emotional and spiritual.

The two “S” symbols could also stand for “saved to save.” As believers in Jesus Christ we have been saved from our own sin, but Christ never meant it to be just that. In Matthew 28:19, Christ commands us to go forth and make disciples of all nations. We are called to go and share His salvation with the whole world. It’s never meant to be hoarded and kept for ourselves, but shared with other people.

We are called to both serve and save. Both will make a difference in someone else’s life, often having a ripple effect we may not see during our own lifetime.

My challenge to you today is to be the difference in someone else’s life. Please join The Salvation Army in our mission to serve our neighbors with boundless love. Share the Good News and the salvation available through Jesus Christ.

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