To the Editor: Memorial Day events are deep in tradition
Written by Dick Conrad   
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 09:03
The Memorial Day ceremonies put on by veterans' organizations across the country are deep in tradition. These traditions include a 21 gun salute and the playing of taps. The 21 gun salute and the playing of taps are also performed as military honors for deceased veterans.
But, what is the history of these traditions and what is their significance?
The practice of firing three rifle volleys over the grave originated in the old custom of halting the fighting to remove the dead from the battlefield. Once each army had cleared their dead, it would fire three volleys to indicate the dead had been cared for and that they were ready to fight again. The fact that the firing party consists of seven riflemen firing these volleys does not constitute a 21 gun salute. It is the three volleys that are significant, not the number of rifles (although it is custom to have an odd number of riflemen 3-5-7).
Three volleys fired over the casket have become a tradition to mean that the dead have been cared for. Likewise, for Memorial Day, we fire three volleys during the ceremony at the cemetery to indicate that the dead have been cared for (i.e. each veteran's grave has been decorated and properly cared for). The three volleys are then followed by the playing of taps.
The firing of three volleys over the casket is one of the highest honors to give a deceased military veteran. Our nation's highest honor is a flag draped over the casket, folded and presented. Tradition is to place three spent shell casings inside the folded flag to prove now and forevermore that the deceased and his flag have had proper military honors.
Some will say that the three spent shell casings represent: God, country and family. Others say that the three spent shell casings represent: duty, honor and sacrifice.

Dick Conrad, Commander
Lybarger-Grimm American Legion Post 441

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