Some gave all
Paying tribute to those who sacrificed everything
BY TINA L. SCOTT
Memorial Day was designated as a federal holiday in 1971, observed on the last Monday of May each year, for Americans to pay tribute to those in the U.S. military who made the ultimate sacrifice, dying while in service to their country.
Waterloo, New York, is credited as holding the first memorial day on May 5, 1866, which became an annual, community-wide event that included decorating the graves of soldiers with flags and flowers. However, other communities in the north and south were also paying tribute to their fallen Civil War soldiers in similar ways that first spring, a year after the end of the Civil War, and some in the south perhaps much sooner. Many communities independently paid tribute to their fallen soldiers in their own ways.
May 30, 1868, was designated as Decoration Day, just three years after the end of the American Civil War, when General John A. Logan, the leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans called for the holiday. “Designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he said when calling for the day.
More Americans died in the American Civil War than in any other conflict or war in U.S. history.
That first officially designated Decoration Day in the north included a speech by General James Garfield at Arlington National Cemetery, and it is said 5,000 participants decorated the 20,000 graves of the Civil War soldiers buried there.
As the years wore on and the United States military became involved in even more conflicts and wars, Decoration Day evolved to become known as Memorial Day and also become a day to honor more than just fallen Civil War soldiers. It became a day to honor the sacrifice of every American soldier who paid the ultimate price, sacrificing their life for their country.
Whether in the Civil War, World War I or II, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, regardless of the conflict, on Memorial Day we pay tribute to the soldiers who gave everything in service to their country.
In 1992, Billy Ray Cyrus wrote and recorded a song called “Some Gave All.” The song resonated with listeners and put Cyrus on the record charts, but its lyrics also resonate on Memorial Day and give meaning to the reason for the parades, the ceremonies, and the flags, flowers, and wreaths on gravestones:
“Love your country and live with pride,
And don’t forget those who died, America, can’t you see?
All gave some and some gave all,
And some stood through for the red, white, and blue,
And some had to fall.
And if you ever think of me,
Think of all your liberties and recall …
Some gave all.”