• 72°

The meaning of Memorial Day

By Jen Jaqua

Memorial Day is bright white graves in uniformed rows. Markers of the fallen each cleanly engraved with the rank, name, unit and dates of birth and death if known.

Memorial Day is a folded American flag handed to a grieving widow. The flag is folded traditionally 13 times by an honor guard. Per common tradition, each fold has a meaning. The first, folded in half lengthwise, is a symbol of life. The flag is then held stars down and folded the second time, again in half lengthwise; this fold signifies our belief in eternal life.

The rest of the folds are made in a triangle pattern. The third fold is made in honor and tribute of the veteran departing our ranks, who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace. The fourth fold exemplifies our weaker nature as citizens trusting in God; it is to Him we turn for His divine guidance.

The fifth fold is an acknowledgment to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.” The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The seventh fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all enemies. The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day. The ninth fold is an honor to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.

The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country. The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The 12th fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost. The last fold, when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.” After the final fold is made, the remaining fabric is tucked in tightly and smartly presented to the widow or child of the fallen military member.

Memorial Day is the bugle call of taps. “Taps” is a variation of another bugle call, “Scott Tattoo.” During the Civil War it was used to sound lights out. The custom of playing “Taps” at military funerals began in 1862 at Harrison’s Landing. Capt. John Tidball wished to honor a corporal who had died by burying him with full military honors. Due to military reasons, a 21-gun salute was refused. Tidball instead played “Taps.” The idea spread, and in a short time it was adopted by the entire army and is now looked upon as the most appropriate and touching part of a military funeral. It became a standard component of U.S. military funerals in 1891.

Memorial Day is the day we pause and remember the men and women who gave their lives defending our country. God bless all the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.