November 11 is one of my favorite days of the year. As a Veteran, I will readily admit to enjoying the thank you for your service messages I get from my family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers. The appreciation I have received for the past 18 years for my service validates the decision and the sacrifices I made when I enlisted in the United States Air Force back in 1993. I take great pride in my service to our great nation and still hold to this day the willingness to lay down my life for all my fellow Americans. It makes no difference to me how far apart I may be from a fellow American, or those people from other nations where I was stationed and helped protect, in regards to politics, spirituality, interests, careers, or any other division known to man, I would still be willing to lay it down for them if needed. Just because I no longer serve actively does not mean I do not hold the same beliefs. It is who I am.
Outside the personal enjoyment, more important to me is to make it a point to say thank you to the rest of the Veterans. From the very beginning of our great nation, many men and women have given of themselves through service in our military. It is easy for us to pay special attention to our Founding Fathers, the Veterans of the Civil War, and most notably our World War II Veterans. However, for today, I want to take some time to pay special respects to the Veterans of Generation X. Our generations have more than earned special recognition.
It has been said numerous times that our generation is the first generation to take a step backwards in American history. We are often described negatively as being slackers, entitlement minded, disenfranchised, rebellious, anti-establishment, adrift, empty, materialistic, and several others. Most likely, as a generation, we will end up worse off than our parents and will not have accomplished as much as them either. Looking at us as a whole and as myself individually, it is difficult to argue these points though I do find them to be over simplistic. Our challenges are mostly unique to us though our Baby Boomer parents and Generation Y brothers and sisters can relate on some levels. However, when it comes to the military commitment to our nation, I will hold Generation X up against any other generation in American history.
I am going to keep my comparison in a contemporary nature that will consist of “The Greatest Generation”, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y. Any generation prior I have a hard time comparing to these four. Yes, these prior generations fought in significant wars and lesser conflicts and absolutely deserve our admiration and respect. However, since the beginning of the 20th Century, the nature of warfare and global politics is so fundamentally different it makes it difficult to make an “apples to apples” comparison.
Let me begin with my grandparents, known now as “The Greatest Generation”. This generation fought and won what I consider to be the most significant war in human history, World War II. They also fought what is known as the forgotten war, the Korean War, fought in the Vietnam War, and were heavily involved in the Cold War. All of this on face value would seem to end the argument before it begins. Without the G.G.s, we would not be here in the country we love today. However, it is important to remember the mindset of G.G.s was isolationist. Also at this time in American history, there was a military draft. While a great many volunteered after Pearl Harbor, a good portion of these G.G.s were going to be drafted anyway. This is not to discount in any way their Patriotism and dedication to the country but rather to point out that they were not the 100% voluntary force of today. By the time they fought the Korean War and entered into the Vietnam War, our beloved G.G.s were plenty weary of warfare. It can be argued their dedication to military service waned and fed into the next group’s perceived apathy.
Baby Boomers. We have all read about them, watched movies and documentaries about them, and “heard it straight from the horse’s mouth”. We are familiar with terms such as “Stop The War”, “Peace”, “Free Love”, and several others. Our parents were involved primarily in Vietnam and the Cold War though they did have other conflicts and operations to deal with. A primarily drafted military, these Baby Boomer Veterans had to deal with horrors many of us could not imagine. In addition to this, they had to deal with a tremendous lack of support from their peers and a total and complete failure in leadership. It is no wonder that they turned cynical. Vietnam Veterans deserve admiration and our utmost respect because they were forced into an unpopular war, were given terrible leadership, and did not have the luxury of an adoring public to welcome them home. For this and how it shaped them to where the Vietnam War was ultimately lost, it is hard for me to say Baby Boomers had a comparable military commitment to the nation like the other mentioned generations have. However, it is important to note that I believe that our Baby Boomer parents have earned tremendous redemption in not only their support of their children’s service but also what is their closing chapter of military service with winning the Persian Gulf War, a war they fought side-by-side with their children.
Now, we come to my generation, Generation X. Generation X has fought non-stop for the past twenty years. Since the beginning of the post-Cold War era starting in 1991 through 2011 and counting, my generation has participated in a near constant string of operations and conflicts across the world. The places we have been include, in no particular order, Liberia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Zaire, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Haiti, Central African Republic, Albania, Congo, Gabon, Cambodia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Sudan, East Timor, Serbia, Yemen, The Philippines, Côte d’Ivoire, Georgia and Djibouti, Lebanon, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Uganda. If you wish to include the oldest members of Generation X who started serving in the 1980s, you can tack on another eight to ten years. Factor that most likely the youngest Gen-Xers most likely will also be involved in an operation of conflict through our entire “fighting years”, it is a good bet that our Generation will have been mixing it up for around 40-45 years straight. Fortunately for us, we receive a level of support, respect, and recognition not seen since WWII.
Now I will close us out with Generation Y. They are cutting their teeth on the most unorthodox war, the War on Terror. Due to the nature of this war, I fear that our Gen-Y brothers and sisters too will be in a state of constant warfare that exceeds what my generation has had to endure. If this is indeed the case, we Gen-Xers need to ensure we stand beside them all the way.
It is important to note I am not discounting any generation’s Veterans. Every Veteran absolutely deserves 100% respect and recognition for their sacrifices regardless of generation. My point is to illustrate why I personally believe in a relative comparison that the Veterans of Generation X are not only unique as being 100% voluntary but have stepped up to the challenge of constant global conflict for our entire adult military aged adult lives. Because of this, I believe the Gen-X Veteran is at the top of the list. There will be many who disagree with me. The beauty of it is that is perfectly fine because that is exactly why every Veteran, including myself, served, fought, and in many cases, died for. For that, I say let the debate begin!
Ultimately, it does not matter if a Veteran was drafted or voluntary, enlisted or commissioned, served the minimum service requirement or retired, involved in combat or not, is a man or a woman, or served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard. A Veteran is a Veteran. God Bless the Veterans of the United States Military!