From the Wise Master (May, 2008)

posted May 2, 2015, 6:06 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite   [ updated May 2, 2015, 6:06 PM ]
Memorial Day
, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service  was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11.  It was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873.  By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states.  The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).  It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363). 
Traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years.  Many Americans have forgotten the meaning and traditions of the Day.  At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are ignored and neglected.  Many no longer remember proper flag etiquette for the day.  (On Memorial Day the flag should be displayed at half mast until noon, then raised to the top of the staff and flown until sunset.  When flown at half mast, the flag should be hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half staff position. The flag should be raised to the peak before it is lowered at the end of the day.)  While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades.  Some think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.
To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed in Dec 2000 which asks that all Americans  voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.  
The words for “Taps” are:
Day is done… Gone the sun. From the Lakes…From the hills…From the sky. All is well…Safely rest…God is nigh.
Fading light…Dims the sigh… And a star…Gems the sky … Gleaming bright. From afar. Drawing nigh… Falls the night.
Thanks and praise … For our days…Neath the sun…neath the stars… Neath the sky. As we go… this we know …God is nigh.
The Moment of Remembrance is a step in the right direction to returning the meaning to the day. What is needed is a full return to the original day of observance.  Set aside one day out of the year for the nation to remember, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to their country.

Hal Leister, 32°
Wise Master