This post from Marty has been bobbing around at the back of my mind for some time, so I figured I should just blog it and move on. The bit that really struck me, beyond the general disagreement I’d have with it, is this line:
We have an outstanding military force comprised of the finest Americans this country has seen in generations.
Now I think that the idea of comparing generations of people is rather silly. Of course there are generalizations that can be made – Gen Y is more confident than the equivalent group from the Great Depression, for example, and probably has higher expectations that can appear (rightly or wrongly) to be selfishness – but to say that one generation is ‘better’ than another when they’ve lived in such different worlds is ‘a hiding to nothing’ as my grandmother would mysteriously say.
But just for the sake of argument, let’s look at this assertion. Note first, these aren’t some of the finest Americans, these aren’t heroes that would rank alongside the greatest we’ve seen; these are the finest.
So let’s go back 3 generations (the minimum I think ‘generations’ would cover). That gets us to the end of the Second World War, and men like Beauford T Anderson, who threw mortar shells at advancing Japanese forces to successfully hold his position single-handedly. Men like Thomas A Baker who, too wounded to continue after a night filled with heroism, asked to be propped against a tree with a pistol containing 8 rounds. The following morning he was found dead, still seated and with 8 dead Japanese soldiers in front of him. Or men like Charles Joseph Berry, who threw himself an a hand grenade to save his comrades.
Skipping forwards we have Tibor Rubin, who during the Korean war held a hill without support for 24 hours against overwhelming enemy force (and that was only one of three reasons given in his Medal of Honor citation). William G. Windrich died as a result of injuries received and the cold, having repeatedly declined treatment so that he could fight with and direct his men in battle.
In Vietnam, among many heroes, James Anderson Jr, Richard A Anderson, John P Baca, Jedh C Barker, Peter S Connor, Michael J Fitzmaurice, Robert H Jenkins Jr, David P Nash, Laszlo Rabel, Hecto Santiago-Colon, and Russell A Steindam were just some of the men who threw themselves on grenades to protect the men around them.
In 1993 Gary I Gordon and Randall D Shughart volunteered to walk into the chaos of Magadishu to protect a downed aircrew, and paid the ultimate price.
The men and women who serve today are ordinary people who have it within themselves to rise to extraordinary heights. I unhesitatingly admire them for their service, regardless of my views on the war they fight. But the men I listed here, amongst thousands of others, stood tall in Hell. To suggest that they aren’t the equal of today’s soldiers is as grave an insult as I can imagine.