Every year on the last Monday of May, US news outlets dedicate their day's coverage to Memorial Day - commemorating soldiers killed in action.

In 2012, Chris Hayes, a presenter on US network MSNBC, sparked controversy when he questioned the US media's habitual use of the word 'hero' when describing American soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was a chance to ask a difficult question: whether those who die in war have perished in vain or, even worse, have been killed in a cause that was actually wrong - and to ask whose interests the rhetoric of military heroism serves.

"The word hero gets thrown about a lot in American public discourse. And when we start applying that term to the military, it all of a sudden becomes very difficult to question the military's actions because if it's always heroic their actions are always beyond reproach. And so Chris is opening up a whole question about what does it actually mean to think about using terms that sort of end up inhibiting or preventing military criticism," says Elisabeth Anker, the author of Melodrama, Media and September 11.

But Hayes' comments caused outrage among right-wing media outlets and he was forced to publically apologise. What Chris Hayes learned, apart from a few new ways to apologise, is that to many Americans, this is not a discussion even worth having.

The Listening Post’s Marcela Pizarro reports on the terminology that galvanises America's wars.

This episode of Listening Post was first broadcast on Al Jazeera English in June 2012.

Source: Al Jazeera