Veteran’s Day

November 16, 2008

Veterans Day has recently come and gone and I realized that I failed to mention it.  I guess I got wrapped up in thinking that Veteran’s Day was my holiday, sometimes it’s easy to do.  The wife takes you to lunch, family members call to thank you for your service, people stop you on the street to shake your hand. It can be a bit overwhelming.  However, this is no excuse for my negligence.  Currently my Marine brothers and sisters are deployed around the world fighting a war that is less than popular against an enemy who refuses to fight by the rules.  These are the folks that Veteran’s Day is meant for- the 19 year old kid making life or death decisions that no one should ever be faced with, not the guy enjoying the relative comfort of a desk job at the Pentagon.  At least that’s my take on it.

So I pulled out a letter I wrote when I was deployed to Iraq in 2003.  At the time, I was a company commander with 180 Marines to lead and we had been conducting operations in Iraq for several weeks.  Somehow, I came across an article discussing the “Greatest Generation” describing those folks who fought during World War II and contrasting how this new generation of young warriors matched up.  It was less than flattering, so I scribbled down some thoughts as a rebuttle.  Things got busy so I never published my thoughts, but I’ll do so now.  Maybe this will explain to you what it’s like to serve with this generation of men and women.  Maybe it will explain why I’ve been a Marine for so many years- or maybe you’ll pick up on the admiration and flat-out love I have for those so willing to give everything they have to our great nation.

I had reservations about posting this letter- some of it may appear to be politically charged, but that’s not my intent.  I serve at the discretion of the President of the United States, and I have served both Republican and Democrats in my 20 plus years.  Simply stated, I’ll serve President Elect Obama, just as I served President Bush- with loyalty, devotion and honor.

So here are my words from May of 2003 while deployed to Iraq:

I have heard so many speak of the troubled youth of today.

I’ve heard the complaints aimed at the Pepsi Generation or Nintendo generation or whatever title it currently holds.

“When I was a kid we played baseball, kickball, and spin the bottle”

Kids today have Play Stations, experiment with synthetic drugs, and have an alarming rate of teenage pregnancy.

They are a motley crew; lazy, inconsiderate and self absorbed.

They have no respect for property, authority or their elders.

“When I was a kid we recited the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of every school day, this new generation has no concept of duty, pride or patriotism”

What an ugly portrait we paint of youth and freedom; of our sons and daughters.

 

I have heard so much in my short life about the “new generation”.

Was there ever a time when one generation looked to the newcomer and said, “Your generation is airtight, locked on, squared away”?  I doubt it.

Here is what I believe about this new generation.

 

These are my observations from the front lines of this rising generation.

What I see everyday is amazing.

I see 18, 19, and 20 year-old men and women working hand in hand 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.

They do not receive time off or a bonus for their efforts.

They live in the dirt away from their families and all they have known their short lives.

And yes, they have families.

They have 19-year old wives and brand new babies.

Yesterday’s high school sweet hearts suddenly caught up in the reality of nation at war.

Their families live in substandard housing and they receive paychecks that most would consider an insult.

They will endure months of separation often unable to even speak to the one’s they love.

 

And late at night they will suddenly find themselves praying for the safety of their mate even though they’ve never been a firm believer in any faith.

They will cry.

Some will be strong and some will not.

Babies will learn to crawl, walk, speak, and run while their fathers are away.

Sons and daughters will learn the word “Daddy” but only in the context of a photo.

Daddy is a glossy 8X10 sitting on his son’s nightstand.

His son will talk to the picture but it will never answer.

The picture will never caress his head when he is scared or bandage a boo-boo.

How sad for the child who has nothing but a photo.

 

But the new generation tries not to think about such trivial things as family.

They are preparing for war, our nation’s war, yours and mine.

They are the chosen few who showed enough courage to step forward instead of looking down.

Somewhere in their 18, 19 and 20 year old minds they heard the words courage and patriotism.

They heard their Nation’s call, to risk everything for something that was much bigger than any one person could be.

They are the men and women that historians will write about taking part in things that will shape nations.

They are a motley crew.

They are yesterday’s high school prom king, captain of the football team, gang member, or misfit.

They came from everywhere and no-where.

They did not believe the propaganda that their generation was a failure doomed to obscurity.

They came to fight.

They came to carry a rifle, drive a tank, stand a post.

They are 18, 19, 20-years old but they carry the weight of a million people on their shoulders.

Yet they stand tall, defiant as if our Nation’s hopes weren’t a burden at all, but a blessing.

They have faced the dragon, putting their lives on the line for at best a fickle public.

Perched on the cutting edge of the sword they face-off with a multi-dimensional threat, terrorist and combatants alike, and still they somehow manage to smile when they look to their left and right at the buddies who serve beside them.

And when I look at them I know with all my heart that I love them.

 

Here is my dilemma I am a company commander up from the ranks.

I have been in tough situations before; I am what some would consider a veteran.

And when your 33-years old surrounded by today’s youth it is almost impossible not to become someone’s Dad.

You are the old man.

You are the father some never knew.

You will praise those who have never been praised before.

And you will discipline those who are used to running free.

You can clip wings or release someone’s potential in an instant.

You may be the only person who truly understands that the youth of today will become the saviors of tomorrow.

I do.

You will feel the sting of their problems and accept them as your own; you will guide them through troubled times whenever you are needed; leadership is a selfless act.

I have.

You will come to know them in an intimate manner that can only be fostered when faced with the threat of danger, and you will love them for their courage.

I will.

What I have discovered through my career is that above all else I fear for their safety.

Right or wrong that is my greatest concern, I fear for them because their youth does not allow them to fear for themselves.

I am faced with the reality that I would never fully recover from the loss of one of my Marines, and sadly I can say with regret that I know this to be true.

 

For those of you who have the luxury of sitting in your homes and questioning our President’s course of action, good on you, that’s your right.

Just understand how your criticisms impact the 19-year old Marine about to cross the line of departure.

If you have never carried a rifle in the defense of those liberties which you so freely exercise, then support those that do.

Support YOUR president for he is faced with the decision of putting young men and women into harm’s way.

He is faced with making decisions beyond what any of us could ever fathom.

And he will live with the consequences of those decisions for the rest of his life.

Few men would willingly take his place.

 

These are the rambling thoughts of one Marine.

Other than that I am simply a husband who misses his wife.

A father who wants to hold his children.

And a wayward son who should call his mother more often.

 

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Fatty posted the following on November 17, 2008 at 5:30 am.

well said Bud…and thanks for your service!!

mary posted the following on November 20, 2008 at 1:46 am.

well stated, thank you

MrsFierceShoes posted the following on December 2, 2008 at 3:50 pm.

As the daughter of a veteran and an American, I say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart. I’m sure none of us who haven’t served truly understand the sacrifices that you and your family have made. Again, thank you…


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