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A few things you might not know about Memorial Day
- By John Breeden II
- May 26, 2011
Other than the Fourth of July, I think Memorial Day is one of the most beloved American holidays, at least among the holidays that take place during warm weather. But although shopping, barbecues, the Indianapolis 500, the beach and fireworks are all part of the fun, let’s not forget what Memorial Day is all about.
As holidays go, it’s one of the most solemn we observe.
Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day, the day when the graves of those who died in battle were decorated. And thankfully, that tradition continues. For a long time it happened every May 30 and although that day still stands as the official date, the observation of the holiday was changed in 1968 to provide a three-day weekend.
Besides decorating the graves of the fallen, there are some solemn ways to remember those who died, traditions that you may not even know about.
Did you know, for example, that the U.S. flag only flies at half-staff for half the day on Memorial Day? On that day, the flag is raised to the top of the staff at dawn and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains until noon. It’s then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.
Why? The half-staff position remembers more than 1 million men and women who gave their lives in service to their country. At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who promise not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to instead rise up in their place to continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.
Probably the best way to honor the fallen is to visit a local cemetery and place flags on the graves of veterans buried there. Two places where the holiday will be observed in full force are the Gettysburg National Cemetery and the Arlington National Cemetery.
At 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, everyone should pause for one minute and remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for this nation. Taps should be played. If you don’t happen to be a bugler, you can listen to it courtesy of the Army training manual.
Although there are no official words to taps, these are the most popular and beautiful ones. As such, I’d like to end my column with them. Have a safe and solemn Memorial Day, everyone.
Day is done, gone the sun, From the hills, from the lake, From the skies. All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
Go to sleep, peaceful sleep, May the soldier, or sailor, God keep. On the land, or the deep, Safe in sleep.
Love, good night, Must thou go, When the day, And the night, Need thee so? All is well. Speedeth all, To their rest.
Fades the light; And afar, Goeth day, And the stars, Shineth bright, Fare thee well; Day has gone, Night is on.
Thanks and praise, For our days, 'Neath the sun, Neath the stars, 'Neath the sky, As we go, This we know, God is nigh.
John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.