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Memorial Day: Honoring the Dead by Serving the Living

Dr. Nancy Isserman is the Director of Operation Home and Healing: services for Veterans, active military members, and their families.

U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. William P. Coleman/RELEASED


Memorial Day honors all who have died for our country, particularly in battle or from wounds they suffered in battle. Almost two million people have given their lives since 1775 to protect our country and our freedoms.  Memorial Day customs include displaying the American flag at half-staff until noon and then raising it to the top of the staff, visiting national cemeteries, and placing flags and flowers on the graves of Veterans.

These customs are familiar ones and have become established rites over the decades since the first memorial commemorations after the Civil War. However, not many of us may know that in 2000 the U.S. Congress passed legislation encouraging all Americans to pause for a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time.

These actions are important and remind us of the sacrifice others have made on our behalf. And yet, as Jennifer Mulhern Granholm, former Governor of Michigan and current political contributor has stated,

“Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well.”

Her words resonate with the staff and interns at Council for Relationships who are dedicated to serving Veterans and their families in the Delaware Valley region. Our clinicians have committed to training in military cultural competency in order to provide the highest quality of service to the Veteran community. CFR-trained therapists offer counseling services utilizing a family systems perspective, viewing the Veteran within their family context. Since 2007 CFR has united its services to Veterans and their family members under the umbrella of Operation Home and Healing.

Since 2018 Council for Relationships is the sole provider of clinical services in the Philadelphia area for the Headstrong Project. Headstrong is a national non-profit committed to providing cost-free, rapid response, stigma-free, and confidential mental health services to post 9/11 Veterans and any Veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma.

While 10-20% of returning service members suffer from behavioral health issues, others may face challenges reintegrating back into their families. The separation from the family environment for weeks or months of stressful military duty has the potential to create relationship problems for service members and their loved ones. These concerns have been reflected in the recent Blue Star Military Family Lifestyle Survey results. While away from the family, issues arise such as: what information to communicate; how much detail to share; and how to maintain appropriate and healthy dialogue between the spouse/family at home and the service member. Upon returning to the family, roles often have to be renegotiated and relationships rebuilt.

Council for Relationships clinicians explore with their Veteran clients answers to these questions and healthy ways to address these problems and promote family resiliency. With 10 offices in the Delaware Valley region, our staff mirror the sentiments expressed in Gov. Granholm’s quote, honoring the dead by seeking to improve the quality of life for our Veterans and their families.


Veterans, active military members, and their families may visit Operation Home and Healing to learn more about our services. Post-9/11 Veterans and Veterans who experienced MST may be eligible for free EMDR therapy services through our partnership with Project Headstrong