Memorial Day: Teach Your Children Well

memorial day graphic 2014May 26, 2014 Memorial Day Since people have continued to confuse Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day I wanted to add one more simple comparison/contrast to help sort it out.

Also, on Twitter, there will be a #GoSilent moment at 12:01pm EDT on Memorial Day along with several other poignant hashtags that help clarify with a heartfelt salute: #InHonorOf and #HonorTheFallen.

May 21, 2014 Update: 

Last night watching the Academy of Country Music Awards All Star Salute to the Troops  it was easy to be moved by the music, emotion, and patriotic outpouring.

From songstress Carrie Underwood’s custom-creation of appreciation, “Keep Us Safe” to the faces of soldiers singing along and performing with pride, I was viscerally touched by the spectacle.

Keenly aware of the magnitude of talent coming together in a salute to the troops, my media literacy lens keeps inserting the stage-crafting as a brilliant cross between a recruitment commercial, and the power of music to blend ‘red and blue’ into purple, casting politics aside and uniting with a heartfelt ‘thank you” to those who serve at home and abroad.

Beyond flag-waving and fistpumps, it’s important to “teach our children well in the classrooms” to contextualize Memorial Day as a somber sacrifice, especially in this era of “militainment” and the war play dilemma. Parents need to learn how to navigate gaming culture with strong critical thinking to honor the fallen beyond a ‘leaderboard,’ and teach reverence and reflection…

Being raised in a military family, Memorial Day hits a melancholy note that reminds me it’s a moral imperative to cast off simplistic hawk and dove sound bites or nationalism in favor of the nuanced complexity of our increasingly interconnected geopolitical spheres.

Those who have given their lives for our country deserve more than a day of recognition, or a tribute from joystick soldiers…

They deserve for the next generation to truly understand what ‘in memorium’ means…

…and a solemn salute year-round.


Memorial Day is Not About BBQs and Mattress Sales!


flag pieOriginal Post: 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 to movie round-ups like the top 50 war films AND anti-war films! But are we using that media to open a dialogue on peace, war, social justice and soldiers at home and abroad? 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 StoryCorps 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 late Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii 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. (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” and “Call of Duty” grind FAR 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.”

(Visual credit:

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  ‘Brats, Our Journey Home’


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

Top 10 Anti-War Films (

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


Soldier Care Package Ideas

Treats for Troops (largest index of military blogs)

The Golden Rules of Care Packages (funny business)

Operation Gratitude

Operation USO Care Package

Virtual Reality 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

 More On Shaping Youth: A Salute!

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



  1. I have never been so touched by any of your blogs (and I have appreciated yours all along) as I have this one. It is SO appropriate and “right on the mark” that it actually brought tears. How I wish all your readers would forward this on to their friends–or print and mail it–for this needs some MASS distribution, somehow. I certainly intend to do what I can. Thank you again.

  2. Just curious. Does this (only one comment) mean that Nobody cares about this subject but me??? That’s awful!!

  3. No, not at all…in fact very few people even LEAVE comments (sure appreciate them though) due to time constraints and such…

    If I were to judge this blog’s readership by comment numbers alone, I’d be disheartened for sure. Instead, I have analytics that tell me the thousands of page views per day, average time spent reading, what content they’re entering the site to access, etc.

    Though I don’t see any specifically keyed to this particular blog entry for accessing the site, it doesn’t mean others don’t care about the subject, honest. (it was also hard to put into a ‘category’…I chose ‘consumerism’ because of all the ‘mattress sales’ and Memorial Day retail hype but it really is a bigger discussion along the lines of media/marketing shifting values and behavioral cues.)

    Thanks again for your comments…keep ’em coming! 🙂

  4. Anthony Joseph says

    Veterans Day is distinct from Memorial Day, a U.S. public holiday in May. Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day honors those who have died while in military service.

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