President Barack Obama mentioned something on Friday that I don't remember knowing. The formal practice of honoring our country's war dead began in 1866 when a group of Southern women went to a cemetery in Columbus, Mississippi, to place flowers on the graves of Confederate soldiers. Noticing that no one had visited the adjacent graves of Union soldiers in the same cemetery, they laid flowers on those graves as well. The war over, but with its divisions still bitter, the wives, daughters, and sisters chose to honor the sacrifice of the adversaries who lay beside their husbands, fathers, and brothers.
I found that story, which the President told well, very moving. The Confederate women of Columbus left us an extraordinary lesson about forgiveness and patriotism.
Memorial Day, which we observe on Monday, honors fallen heroes, men and women who were willing to lay down their lives for the rest of us. As citizens of a country at war, it is particularly important for us to remember how many of our St. Louis neighbors have lost family members in the country's wars, and how many young Americans remain at risk in Afghanistan and Iraq.