[If] World War II veterans were perceived to be the greatest generation and Vietnam's conscripts a lost generation, then those who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan today could be called the dedicated generation - convinced of America's cause and determined to shepherd it through days of dust and destruction.He goes on to desribe the strong reenlistment rates and the sense of purpose that this global conflict for Western survival has created in todays troops. That purpose has created a unique focus as well.
Since the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are all volunteers, the war was very much part of a conscious career choice, and the intensity of the experience is focusing their lives. … Yet the reenlistment rates also suggest that many are finding a deeper love for service and a connection to something greater than themselves."In World War II, soldiers knew what they had to do, and they wanted to do it and come home to get on with life," says Morten Ender of West Point. "In Vietnam, [the war] became a turning point, because there was a sense [among the conscripted soldiers] that they had no control."As if the argument that today's military is made up of naïve, gullible youths who have no idea what they are getting into needs more holes shot in it, Sappenfield says,
"Since the troops ... are all volunteers, the war was very much part of a conscious career choice. … In many ways, a portrait of the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is a portrait of how the all-volunteer force has changed the military. Demographically, this force has opened the military to more women and, more recently, it has seen a drop in the overrepresentation of blacks. But significantly, it has also created a professional force capable of greater sophistication - partly because everyone wants to be there."None of us entered this machine without knowing in our heart of hearts that we may have to go to war," writes Capt. Christopher Connors in an e-mail from Afghanistan. "That is why it is the Army, not the Boy Scouts."And finally, the article closes with the perspective and praise of a Vietnam vet currently serving in Iraq.
To Master Sgt. Lanie Ray Vickers, a reservist, experience also brings a different perspective. Sergeant Vickers served one tour in Vietnam as a draftee and is now in Iraq as a member of the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion. To him, the distinction between the draftees of Vietnam who simply wanted to finish their tour and the soldiers of this generation could not be greater."I've talked to many of these kids on their second tour, and they talk about, 'When I reenlist ...' " says Vickers by phone. "When you see that kind of dedication - when they know what's out there - it makes an old soldier like me proud to be an American."
Retired from the US Air Force after more than 20 years of service. Now working as a contractor for various government agencies.