Memorial Day Salute: Reverence, Reflection, Resources

May 27, 2016 Update Poignant new documentary trailer/film fundraiser about the impact of war on military families, called “Weight of Honor” which is a solemn reminder of sacrifices made, lives changed forevermore, and media’s role to properly frame Memorial Day Weekend beyond BBQs and mattress sales.

Also, May is mental health awareness month, so it’s suitable to shout out the rise in digital technology in mental health as well as new advancements at Stanford exploring the use of virtual reality for psychiatry, PTSD and more.

May 25, 2015 Update Excellent piece in the Washington Post titled, “I’m a Veteran and I hate ‘Happy Memorial Day’…Here’s Why” Sending it out on Twitter with a huge social media shoutout salute to the fallen…Please, folks, “Teach Your Children Well.”

May 18, 2012 Update: New Media Education Foundation video out called “Returning Fire” in the queue for commentary, seeking feedback from academics, military familes, gamers, youth on immersive “militainment”. (Joystick Soldiers dynamics) Also, as I write this post I realize I have a timelessly relevant post in my very own archives that should be resurrected and freshened anew, updated in 2014 called Teach Your Children Well.  

Shaping Youth’s Memorial Day Reminder: Teach Your Children Well

by Amy Jussel (published 5-28-07, reprised 5-25-15!)

Not sure when media and marketing turned Memorial Day into mattress sales and BBQs instead of honoring the fallen, but this site places it around 1971, when Congress made Memorial day into a mandatory three-day weekend with the National Holiday Act.

We just finished scattering rose petals off our dock into the water and as they floated away in our lagoon, it dawned on me that most American children have no clue what the holiday is for, much less any ways to honor it…Same goes for kids calling Veteran’s Day “veterinarians day” and such. Woof.

Truth be told, even some of us who were raised as military brats were befuddled by Armed Forces Day thrown into the mix. It was hard enough to keep timelines of American wars straight, however I CAN safely say the oxymoronic notion of saying “Happy Memorial Day” would NOT roll off a child’s tongue, much less an adult once upon a time. Not so now. I hear it from cashiers and retailers and even some teachers wishing kids a ‘fun holiday.’

It kills me that kids are spoon-fed happy-chat media morsels of tidy 3-day observances instead of gulping down a bit of meaningful reflection. Most of the general populace equates water sports, watermelon, picnics and parties as if it were a salute to summer rather than soldiers…

It makes me wonder if we’ve dumbed down our nation’s culture to the point where we can’t handle ‘reality’ unless it’s a contrived reality show.

Does it make sense that kids can go into media immersion with online commando games and glamorized military might, yet not face the very real toll that war takes on all sides?

There’s plenty of media out there to get the point across, from the History Channel’s Civil War videos and quick web clips explaining details, to movie round-ups like the top 50 war films. But are we using that media to open a dialogue? At the very least kids should KNOW why the heck they’re getting the freakin’ school day off.

There are tons of age appropriate ways to impart the solemn subject of war, from veteran’s sharing their stories in forums to the VA Kids site, as well as printables, activities and tips for talking at commercial sites like Family Education. (if you can click past annoying ads)

Sometimes other countries seem more attune to Memorial Day tributes than the U.S. does, as this visitor observed:

“In 1999 I laid flowers at the grave of a young U.S. fighter pilot who was KIA in my village in 1945. In the Netherlands I know of schools ‘adopting’ graves of Allied servicemen, keeping those graves in excellent condition! Does anybody know of adopting graves in the U.S. by schools?”

Um. Can’t say that I do. Anyone want to weigh in here?

Is it politically incorrect? Too morose? Is ‘observance’ too close to prayer? Patriotism viewed as propaganda? What’s it like in your child’s school…or community, or larger worldview?

I DO know every two years since 1989, the now late (2012) Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii had doggedly tried to bring back the day’s meaning and reinstate May 30th as Memorial Day to no avail.

He must’ve felt like the political version of Susan Lucci at the Emmys in “here we go again” style trying to get his bill sanctioned by Congress.

Fact is, media and marketing have hijacked Memorial Day for consumerism. The red, white & blue balloons tied to gas guzzling car fleets and mega-mall discount sales under the guise of ‘economic patriotism’ is crass beyond words and unmitigated hooey.

Then there are the media pundits promoting their own agendas, from flag-waving zealousness to pacifism and criticism, they use Memorial Day to carve out polarity. THAT feels offensive and disrespectful too.

Whether you’re ‘for or against’ American policy should have no bearing on honoring troops that have paid the ultimate price with their lives. (as this forthright Gannett News Service commentary implies, it’s not a hawk/dove or donkey/elephant debate, it’s a global issue of tribute)

Would it hurt for kids to learn the lesson that the “Gears of War” grind beyond a blast ‘em up best-seller video game, Army recruitment video, or movie depiction, like From Here to Eternity, Glory, Platoon, M*A*S*H, or Saving Private Ryan?

Men, women and children have died for their country on ALL sides, and child-soldiers in foxholes barely out of their teens can’t strike the set and call it a day, Hollywood style…

It’s a reality show that’s all too real and can’t be buried. (like this soldier who starred in the Army recruitment ad, killed in Iraq)

Honor Memorial Day. Show some reverence. And as the old CSNY song says, “Teach your children well.”

For those among the living, scarred by the fallen, yet soldiering on…A couple of excellent resources to add: PTSD: Tuesday Tucks Me In to explain to preK wee ones via kidlit how war wounds are hard to heal. And also, a new simulation created to support veterans in their transitions to civilian life called Together Strong has just premiered via Kognito. (Oct. 16, 2014) It’s an important lens to add to the mental health/military family equation that will no doubt be receiving more media attention films like Fury …Conversations about PTSD, health and wellness are beyond challenging…this virtual media sim aims to be an icebreaker to help tackle the tough stuff…More links here to help heal and ‘teach your children well.’  

Reverence, Reflections & Resource Roundup; A Salute:

Tuesday Tucks Me In: Awarded Best Amazon Kidlit (a PTSD/soldier and service dog theme)

Narada Michael Walden: Grammy Winner Uses Music to Uplift the Heart

Virtual Healing: War Torn Teens Face Reality Post Iraq Duty

Women & the Military: MyVetwork Launches for Service, Support

MyVetwork: Connecting the Digital Dots (for veterans globally!)

Celebrity Starpower to Benefit Urban Battlefields (my pre-Twitter post!)

Shouldn’t Veterans Day Be Only For Veterans?

Veterans Day & Memorial Day Are Not Mattress Sales

This resource roundup is dedicated to my father, Captain A.R. Jussel, USN (ret) and my mother, Beth R. Jussel who served with a global presence of duty and honor of epic and equal importance. I salute you both with all my heart.

More Resources for Familiestlc_elmo_and_rosita_long.jpg

Sesame Workshop’s TLC: Talk, Listen, Connect (pdf) Deployment, Homecoming, Changes
(videos, downloads, music, and materials on a wide range of topics, from prosthetics, wheelchairs and adjustments to the ‘new normal’ to behavioral angst and reuniting traumas)

Politically Tickled Pink: Puppets Take on the Harsh Realities of War

Post Deployment Stress: What Families Should Know, What Families Can Do

Mental Health & Cognitive Needs of America’s Returning Veterans

Donna Musil’s documentary ‘Brats, Our Journey Home’

Media

A Monument to Memory: Exc New Op-ed/Baltimore Sun

Top 10 Anti-War Films (About.com)

Top 50 War Films (IMBD) Schindler’s List #1

Flags of Our Fathers

History Channel: Take A Veteran to School Day

Ken Burns’ “The War” w/VHP & PBS

Outreach

Soldier Care Package Ideas

Treats for Troops

Milblogging.com (largest index of military blogs)

The Golden Rules of Care Packages (funny business)

Operation Gratitude

Operation USO Care Package

VW/VR Research

Virtual Reality Treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Cornell University: Program for Anxiety & Trauma Stress Studies

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy: WTC Report (7 pp. pdf)

Interactive Media Institute, San Diego, Virtual Healing, Designing Reality Paper

Center for Really Neat Research (seriously! ck medicine meets VR for kids with disabilities)

RezEd: The Hub for Learning & Virtual Worlds

Lead/visual credit: Village Preschool UK/Clipart

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Comments

  1. Dear Amy,
    I would like to express my thanks for this wonderful inspirational article. Such a pity we don’t have enough will to stop for a moment in these turbulent times and give a thought or two for people willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

  2. Angela Hill says:

    Great writeup. I think that the feeling of patriotism has been lost in the past few generations, but there are still those that carry the flag high.
    Angela Hill | The Software Doc

  3. Thank you for taking the time to comment! It’s a topic near and dear to my heart…

  4. Hi Amy,

    I really enjoyed reading your article. I agree that the world has made things far too commercial these days. I believe kids should know and respect the fallen soldiers of our history. I’m from Australia, our day of similarity to Memorial Day is called ANZAC Day. It’s actually coming up very soon on April 25. I think Australia does a marvelous job of preserving the history of the day and everybody including kids knows the importance and what it stands for. Every school parade throughout the country reads famous poems about a day, stands to silence to the famous last post belted out by single trumpet. On the morning of ANZAC Day, the dawn ceremonies scattered throughout the country. There are old people and young people and everyone in between that attend these magnificent memorial ceremoines. Any sporting event throughout the country, goes through exactly the same routine that each school parade does. They listen to the national anthem, stand to a minute’s silence to the last post, bow the head and pay their respects to the fallen. It’s a great day that Australia celebrates with passion and makes sure that the young people of the country understand what is all about. Thanks for the great article.

  5. Thank YOU for taking the time to comment with different experiences/holidays in your own culture…it helps us all to remember the ‘one world’ thinking and sphere of influences acknowledging the impact of service (beyond military too, also service learning/volunteering/peace corps, etc) universally!

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