Cynthia L. Eppley 05/31/2021
Day is Done
By the time this blog is posted, it will be evening and Memorial Day celebrations will be complete.
Sure, there are those gardening and mowing the lawn. But this morning there were parades and traditional celebrations.
Memorial Day is part of our National heritage, and I remember it well. (See Memorial Day 2020)
Things were different last year, with restrictions and cancellations due to Covid. So perhaps 2021 will bring a resurgence of interest.
National Moment of Remembrance
“The National Moment of Remembrance is an annual event that asks Americans, wherever they are at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, to pause for a duration of one minute to remember those who have died in military service to the United States.
The time 3 p.m. was chosen because it is the time when most Americans are enjoying time off from work for the national holiday. The Moment was first proclaimed in May 2000 for Memorial Day that year, and was put in law by the United States Congress in December 2000.”
I grew up in South Jersey, in the small town of Salem.
Memorial Day was marked by parades and going to the cemeteries with flowers for graves.
But this is something I didn’t know: “Salute to the Dead”
SALUTE TO THE DEAD, local times— SALEM AREA: 8am St Marys cemetery Walnut St, 8am old high school New Market St 8:10 am St. Johns Market St (cemetery parking lot off Grant St) 8:20 East view cemetery
and the list goes on.
At these times, the ones who gave their lives are honored by the playing of Taps.
The melody will glide through the breeze, over my father’s grave at East View Cemetery.
The whisper of memories and tradition will be thick in the air.
I just don’t know how you can hear “Taps” and keep a dry eye.
“The use of “Taps” is unique to the United States military, as the call is sounded at funerals, wreath-laying ceremonies and memorial services. “Taps” originally began as a signal to extinguish lights. The music for “Taps” was changed by Major General Daniel Adams Butterfield for his brigade in July, 1862. Butterfield was not pleased with the call for “Extinguish Lights” feeling that it was too formal to signal the day’s end. With the help of the brigade bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton, he created “Taps” to honor his men while in camp at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia following the Seven Days’ battles during the Peninsular Campaign.
“There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate in the music of this wonderful call. Its strains are melancholy, yet full of rest and peace. Its echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate in the air.” –Oliver Willcox Norton
There is certain protocol that accompanies this music.
“The cars will stop and will listen. If you are outside you will stop. If you are in uniform and hear the National Anthem, you will salute the flag. If you are not near a flag, then you will salute in the direction where the music is coming from.” (counton2.com)
“While the sound of the bugle may stop us momentarily from what are doing, the tradition and honor that accompanies the music deserve a moment of our time. When you hear the music, try to remember our veterans and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.” (https://www.dia.mil)
The songs are as follows:
Reveille 7AM Retreat 5PM Taps 9 PM
I remember being with my family on a trip out West and being on base. I suppose it was “Retreat” because all traffic stopped. We listened in silence to the poignant strains of music.
My father explained how we gave honor and respect to those who gave their lives for our country.
Stopping our activities for a moment was the least we could do. And it burned into my young heart.
Which brings me to the main point of this blog today.
In 1957, our neighbor Vic Robinson played Taps on Memorial Day. My father captured the moment with the honor guard, but also my brother, standing and watching with wonder.
My father died in 1997. Our greatest desire was to have Vic Robinson play Taps for the funeral.
And he did. It may have been his last time.
His son Vic told me he found a collection of special letters and mementos in his father’s things. Among them? The letter I had written to him thanking him for his service to us in the midst of our grief.
I suppose Taps could have been played by anyone else.
But no, it had to be Vic Robinson from that picture.
Today, Vic (the son)’s daughter Carol will be playing her fathers bugle in Salute to the Dead. The family tradition has been handed down from generation to generation.
Deep calls to deep.
The circle of tradition and honor is ongoing.
The simple 24 notes of Taps will play out over the country today. One of my friends played Taps at 3pm and posted it.
Its’ wistful notes will be simple but poignant, tried and true.
It will remind us of those who are gone, but not forgotten:
Day is done, Gone the sun, From the hills, From the lake, From the skies. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.
And in our moments of remembrance marked by sadness or celebration, it is a bittersweet truth that God is always nigh.