A new Greatest Generation

The past few weeks I’ve seen not one, not two, but three young men with missing limbs.  One had lost an arm, one a leg, and the most recent, both legs.  Maybe I’m wrong, but their relatively close cropped hair signified that they were military.

The DC area has Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital.  Inside those walls and in other military facilites are perhaps hundreds of returning servicemen and servicewomen who’ve come back from war in a different physical conditon than what they were when they left.

I’ve read where the medical breakthroughs that have happened over the years have resulted in a much lower rate of KIAs that we’ve had in previous wars.  That’s absolutely great.

But it misses something major.  Many of those that are saved nevertheless suffered so grevious injuries that they’re permanently scarred, disfigured, or handicapped.  I’ve heard – I can’t remember where that it may number in the tens of thousands.  Like the young men I now see.

Much has been made of the “Greatest Generation”, the World War II generation of GI Joe’s who went to war to fight fascism and then came home to build this country and to take the lead on civil rights and other great things.  As a son of a mon and a dad who were most definitely part of that generation, I can say that I definitely deserve that title.

But I’m wondering now if there is a new generation of greats.  Or those who have answered they country’s call to serve.

Whenever the Washington Post features their Faces of the Dead (I think that’s what they call it), I make sure I take a look at each picture and read each profile.  I’ll hear stories of a kid somewhere who joined the military after 9/11.  Of how they dedicate their lives for their country.  And sometimes sacrifice that life.

This isn’t a pro-Iraq war statement.  I was against it before it started.

Often one generation disparages the next as being soft and pampered.  I’ll never do that.  Instead, I see a new Greatest Generation.  And I’ll always be grateful.

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On Veterans Day

My son never got to really meet his grandfather. That’s something that I don’t want to accept but I have to. But on June 12, 1996, my dad suddenly passed away from a heart attack. Connor was 10 1/2 months old.

I do have a wonderful picture of my father holding my son. It sits upon my dresser and it always will, whenever and wherever I have a dresser.

Last year on Veteran’s Day, when he was in sixth grade his teacher asked the kids in his class to stand if they knew someone who had served in the military. Connor, knowing that his grandfather had served in World War II, stood up for Philip A. Trenn Jr. He served as in the U.S. Army in the Aleutians.

Many of my generation, with the exception of those that served, quite often never understood the concept of military service. We respected it, but it was often a somewhat distant idea. Our fathers and uncles may have served in World War ll or Korea, and we may have marched in a few parades if we were in Scouting. We knew it was noble. But we were also part the post-Vietman era, where military service was somewhat unfairly and unfortunately derided. To me, this was a disgrace. (I once considered going to OCS for the Marine Corps and people asked me why I wanted to kill people, or for that matter, to die).

The reality is that it is those very veterans that serve that keep us safe. Simply by their service. And at times, horrible sacrifice.

As the World War II generation began passing away in greater numbers, their sons and daughters began to really understand what they had accomplished. We watched Saving Private Ryan and the Band of Brothers. We read The Greatest Generation. Sure, there had been plenty of war movies and novels and other types of media devoted to the “men in uniform”, but many younger people saw them as action films. Just like many today see military-oriented video games as fun and exciting.

Korean War veterans have never really gotten their due. They’re often meshed in with World War ll vets as the two wars were relatively close together timewise or they are meshed with those of the Vietnam War as we were fighting Asian communists from the northern part of a country. For many, the Korean War was the TV show M*A*S*H*.

In the eighties, we began to understand that Vietnam veterans, too, were noble. And were worthy of every bit of respect as those in previous generations. Long, long overdue.

But now it’s time to honor and thank a new generation of veterans. Those that are serving as we speak. Before they are forgotten.

I came upon this story in the Washington Post. It’s about a new organization for Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans, the IAVA. These young men and women may be spending early adulthood in a foreign hositle land, risking their lives. They are leaving loved ones behind here in the state for months upon months. Thousands have come back injured, physically, emotionally, or both. At times to horrible conditions because they aren’t a priority. Sure, we may appreciate them in a generic sense, but we then forget and go on with out lives. While we can’t honor them everyday. But we need to remain vigilant, as a society, and to ALWAYS return to honor to them that they have given to us.

I’m starting today. How about you?