Memorial Day is the official start of summer with a three-day weekend celebrated with cookouts and parades. However, it is more than a picnic day; it is a day of remembrance. When did Memorial Day start?
In the years following the Civil War, mourners placed flowers and flags on the graves of fallen soldiers on Decoration Day. The first commemoration was in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery.
In 1971 Memorial Day was made a national holiday in the United States. It is the most solemn national day, commemorated with parades and decorating the graves of soldiers.
At the remembrance services, often the solemn tune “Taps” is played. Originally the bugler played the tune signaling “Lights Out,” for the end of the day. In 1891 it became a component of military funerals and ceremonies like laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery in Washington, DC.
“Taps” has been called “24 Notes that Tap Deep Emotions,” as explained in the video below.
When those 24 notes sounded during my father’s military funeral in a national cemetery, tears flooded my eyes and sorrow overwhelmed my heart. At the same time I felt pride and love. It is a melody of remembrance.
Memorial Day is a point of reflection for me. Dad served in World War II. He never talked much about it, even when asked by me or his grandchildren. I know it had a profound effect on him and therefore, also on me.
Someday on Memorial Day, I hope to visit the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery where Dad and Mom are laid to rest. But for now, since I live hundreds of miles away, I will remember them from a distance and in my heart.
When that day comes, I will stand among the decorated graves of the brave soldiers with a heart of gratitude for their service.
Until then, whenever I hear “Taps” I will feel a lump in my throat as the tune grips my heart.