On this page:
___How to Address Retired Military (See below)
___Retired or Ret.? – Spelled Out or Abbreviated?
___Retired – In Parentheses of Not?

How to Address Retired US Military

How to Address Retired Officers or Enlisted Personnel
United States Armed Services

—-Envelope or address block on letter or email, Official:

—-—-(Full rank) (full name), USA/USAF/USMC, Retired
——–—-(Full rank) (full name), USA/USAF/USMC, Ret.
—-—-(Full rank) (full name), USN/USCG, Retired
—-——–(Full rank) (full name), USN/USCG, Ret.

——–—-Which looks like ….
—-——–—-Captain Robert W. Thompson, USN, Retired
——–—-—-Captain Robert W. Thompson, USN, Ret.

—-Envelope, Social:

—-—-(Full rank) (full name)

—-—-Which looks like …. How To Address Retired US Military
—-—-—-Captain Robert W. Thompson

—-Letter salutation both official and social: How To Address Retired US Military
—-Dear (basic rank) (surname):


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

—-#1) The branch of service designation – USA, USMC, USN, USAF or USCG – and “Retired” or “Ret.” are used on official correspondence and in official situations when it is important to specify the person is retired and not on active duty.
—-#2) The service designation and retired are not used/included on social correspondence or in social situations. They are not pertinent. Fully retired personnel are orally addressed by rank at their preference in (1) social situations and (2) official situations when their participation is related to their service in the military.
—-#3) In every case the service-specific abbreviation for the (full rank) can be used. These service-specific abbreviations are standard usage within the armed services.
—-#4) Follow this link for how to socially address a military couple.

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Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Retired: Spelled Out or Abbreviated?

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

Dear Fund Raiser: How To Address Retired US Military
For official correspondence DOD guides use the comma … and either Ret. or Retired is acceptable. The show two formulas:
——–(Rank) (Full Name), (Branch of Service), (Retired)
(Rank) (Full Name), (Branch of Service), (Ret.)

——–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:
—-—-BG Arthur Portnow, USA, Retired
—-—-BG Arthur Portnow, USA, Ret.

DOD people like the service-specific abbreviations because they will know a BG is in the Army, and a BGen is a Marine. All those service-specific abbreviations … for the USA, USN, USMC, USAF and USCG …. are in my book and elsewhere. If you want to use them – do so. If you don’t, just spell out the rank fully.

Note that the branch of service and retired status may not be necessary for what you are doing:
—-#1) On social correspondence (personal letters, invitations or cards) – active duty vs. retired status – and branch of service … are not pertinent … and thus not suggested in DOD guides.
—-#2) On official correspondence branch of service and Retired are pertinent — and are used whenever in military environments where active duty personnel are present.

— Robert Hickey How To Address Retired US Military

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

Retired: In Parentheses or Not?

Regarding your advice to write one’s name when retired.
––––––MSgt Trevor Ross, USAF, (Ret.)
With parentheses as shown above is the correct way to signify for retirees — not as you advise.
––––––––––––––––— T.R.

Dear TR:
Thanks for your note, but the DoD style books disagree with you. Either of these forms is correct if you follow those.
––––––MSgt Trevor Ross, USAF, Retired
––––––MSgt Trevor Ross, USAF, Ret.

Here’s why: DoD stylebooks suggest:
––––––(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 Secretaries of all the services) says 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 present the style suggested by the protocol officers at the top of the Pentagon …. and they all say “no parentheses.”

— Robert Hickey


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.
___What I don’t cover on this site are many things I do cover in my book: all the rules of forms of address, about names, international titles, precedence, complimentary closes, details on invitations, place cards, all sorts of introductions, etc. I hope you’ll get a copy of the book if you’d like the further detail.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  If you don’t see the official you seek included or your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, Sometimes I post the question  – but always change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”