A Generation in the Shadow of War

Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind. – John F. Kennedy

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If there’s one thing that this generation knows well, it’s war. We grew up with the sound of gunfire constantly resonating in our ears.

It is hard for most current college students and most mid-to-late  teenagers to recall times when they have memories that have taken place in an era that was not in the midst of war. We have been bred in a nation of constant battle in which we have learned nothing of peace, and all the ins-and-outs of war. We have become comfortable with war. It may not be comfort in the sense of a warm sweater, sweatpants and a cup of hot cocoa in front of a a slow-burning fire, but it is comfort all the same. Well maybe it is just toleration. We may have learned to tolerate war. We have accepted it as something that is just part of our daily lives. It is a depressing necessity, like the destruction of the worlds natural beauty to make room for human development. We hate to see natural beauty infringed upon, but we recognize the need to do so, as well.

It is difficult to realize that when this generation is remembered, there will always be a mention of the wars in the Middle East. When my future children sit down in their classes to learn about their countries past, they will learn of about the death and tragedy that defined my childhood. How we turned on the news each night to hear about another 20 year old who left this world prematurely. A young soldier who left behind a wife and two young children. Children who will grow up knowing their father only through stories and precious pictures. Pictures from a time when their father was teeming with life – a soul that still had so much potential. Potential that was waiting to be uncorked until his duty as an American had to come first, and all that potential had to stay untapped.

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This generation is defined by the destruction of two towers and the loss of over a thousand lives. It is an event that will always be engrained in my memory. I can remember sitting in my second grade classroom. It was a day like any other day in a second graders life, but then all of a sudden it wasn’t. Over the intercom, students began to start being pulled one-by-one out of class by their parents. I vividly remember one student saying, “I don’t remember my Mom telling me I was leaving early today.”

Eventually I was taken out of school by my babysitter. She would not tell me why we were being taken out of school, but I could tell that there was something wrong. Parents often mistake a child’s innocence as being a trait that makes them very vulnerable to deceit, but I think it makes them quite the opposite. I could see worry in my babysitter, a sense of uncertainty and a look that said, “things are going to be different now.” Children may be innocent, but it is this innocence that allows them to better understand the change of emotions in adults. They may lack knowledge, but they are very adept and aware of their situation, and that day I could tell something was not right.

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When I went home, my parents told me what had happened, but I could tell that they still didn’t fully understand either. I have come to understand that when you witness history, it is almost always impossible to put it into perspective until you really look back upon it. That day, I remember the first time that I saw the towers come crumbling down. Pillars of steel that are normally a symbol of strength and longevity giving out from intense heat and weight as the towers began to implode on themselves. The cloud of debris blanketing the streets of Manhattan as powerful men and women who may have been prominent figures on Wall  Street or CEO’s of companies just ran for their lives. Ran as if their lives depended on it. Ran away from the agony of tragedy toward some kind of peace.

And today we are still running to find that peace.

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After we entered war with Iraq in 2003, I can remember catching the fever of patriotism. Our country was running on pride and fueled on patriotism. A nation united as one and a Union that was stronger than I could ever remember. The sight of American flags delicately oscillating in the wind lined the fronts of houses up and done my street. America going off to war is a unique experience to see.

I have never felt an America so connected since that time.

Instead, I have witnessed the waning of pride. People questioning our presence in a country that may not have needed our presence to begin with. A war in a country filled with people that have been fighting among themselves since the beginning of time. A war in a country that is the definition of war. Whatever it may have been, I have seen our country become less supportive of the war effort over the past  10 years. The patriotism of our country at war has slowly flatlined and the war has become almost an after thought.

I truly hope that I am not coming off as unpatriotic and disloyal to our country. I support our troops and our country as much as any other person. All that I am saying is that I believe this country is ready to gorge themselves on the fruits of peace and the tranquility that accompanies that. I have seen a country that has come together to show its’ patriotism in war, but would love to see a country that can find patriotism in peace.

But most of all, I want to be a generation that is not just defined by warfare. I like to think that this generation is a lot more than just war. I know we are so much more than that.

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