Mader: Take a cue from the greatest generation
November 29, 2016
There is a meme going around on social media these days that says something to the effect of "In 1944 18-year-old men were storming Normandy, facing almost certain death. Today, 18-year-old men need safe spaces at colleges because words hurt."
It's a pretty interesting comparison, and though I know it doesn't apply to all 18-year-olds (or even most of them) there is some truth to it. There's an epidemic of entitlement and whining among young people these days.
For a millennial like me, who has all of my needs and many of my wants met, it's hard to imagine what many of the nation's veterans went through when they were young. They definitely weren't throwing temper tantrums when their candidate didn't when the presidential election — they were too busy working or trying to stay alive.
Almost all of my great uncles were drafted into the military. My great uncle Bud served during World War II. He was stationed in Fort Riley, Kan. He was one of the last men to be part of the traditional Cavalry. In 1950 it became mechanized and was absorbed into the Armor branch. My great uncle Al served in Atlanta, Ga.
Great Uncle Leonard, my only living great uncle, was drafted into the army and was stationed in Germany, near Frankfurt. He spent his early 20s enduring bitter cold trainings on the snowy German farmland. The clothing wasn't nearly as good then as it is now, and he felt cold nearly all the time. He and the other soldiers wore their heavy coats around the clock — even when they ate and slept.
My grandpa saw more combat than anyone else in his family. He was drafted into the army and served overseas during World War II. Most of his war stories died with him. He saw so many friends and colleagues killed he could hardly speak of it, even when he was in his 70s.
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One of the few stories he did tell took place in Japan. Japanese troops were gathered on a hill while he and 75 other infantrymen were secretly hiding in the valley below.
My grandpa and the other trips waited in tense suspense, ready to fight at any second. The pressure was enormous and soon became too much for one soldier to bear. He stood up in the foxhole and yelled for his mother.
The Japanese were immediately alerted to the mens' hiding place and they opened fire. The fighting was intense and man after man was killed. So many died that out of necessity the head officer gave my grandpa an infield promotion from sergeant to tech sergeant. My grandpa and only 15 other men survived the attack.
My grandpa narrowly escaped death many other times during the war. This Thanksgiving I'm grateful for his and all my other uncles' service in the military. Hopefully today's 18-year-olds can learn something that generation of men.❖