Saturday, September 11, 2010

Peace Times Generation

I don't know how to write about today.  It's always interesting to me, especially as the years go by,  to hear where people were when they found out, when they "heard."  I don't remember another event like that, the kind where everybody can talk about how their world stopped and they never forgot that moment in time ... exactly where they were and what they were doing... since I was a child and the space shuttle Challenger crashed.  I was in third grade then, and there had been a plan for us to watch it take off on TV.  TV's in classrooms were not the norm in my school in that time, and when we did have them, it was mostly to watch a tape of something educational.  I don't know that the school even had a proper TV antenna.  I don't remember.  Maybe someone was going to bring the TV into the classroom (because they were always on rolling carts that teachers had to sign up to use and pass around) and show us a recording of the lift-off.  It must have been early in the morning, and I don't know whether we would have been at school.  I just remember that the teacher broke the news to us that there had been a horrible accident, and that the Challenger had not lifted off as planned, that it had exploded.  I believe we were to ask our parents to explain it further to us.  

I mention all of this, because I grew up in a generation that was extremely unique in at least one way.  The kids that I grew up with and I only ever knew peace times.  I mean, there were scuffles and military involvement in different events during my life, yes.  But not like what's going on now.  And not like Vietnam or any war that came before it.  

I should stop here and point out that I do realize a "generation" is defined differently by many different people, and depending on context.  For my purposes, I'm speaking of the kids who came of age, say grew up and became teenagers, with me... Let's say about 7 years time.  My brother is 7 years younger than I am, and his own classmates definitely have their own "generation" with its own music and culture and experiences ... some overlapping mine, but many new and all their own.

I was a Junior in High School when the United States entered into the Gulf War.  Even then,  I don't believe that my generation gained much understanding of what it means to be at war, to go to battle, to face a world wherein bloodshed is being caused by and happening to our own military on a large scale.  If you were someone who had a personal relationship to a soldier or other military member who fought in the Gulf War, that's different.  I understand that having personal involvement changes everything, especially for those who lost someone.  And what I write here is not intended to belittle the efforts of such people in any way; in fact, quite the opposite.   Because if you were like me and so many Americans growing up then, the Gulf War just looked like the United States triumph we were taught to expect.  Even the news was not all that serious (anyone remember the "scud stud," i.e. Arthur Kent?), full of quick justice being dealt by the U.S. before the mighty military came on home to celebrate and laugh at anyone who would challenge our super-power nation.  That is the attitude and confidence, however falsely founded, that I was taught.

I now know that it is a very blessed and unique thing, for which I am full of gratitude, to grow up in such a world, where my country seemed like a safe and mighty fortress in which to live.   My generation never knew fear, not the particular kind that enters into a land and sits with its people night after night, when a nation is at war.

As High School graduation approached for my class and those behind us, many kids announced their plans to enlist in a branch of our military.  Some kids had already entered into ROTC programs.    The woman that I am today is unspeakably  ashamed to tell this, but it's the truth nonetheless:  these kids were usually regarded as the ones who didn't have any other options.  I mean, the general thinking of the day was:  why wouldn't you go to college, or get a job making some money, go get married, etc., after High School?  The only good reason to join our military was because you needed money for college and couldn't get it any other way, or to learn a "trade," as the advertisements promised, because you weren't interested or capable of getting into college or getting a good job right out of school.  When recruiters came to our school and were allowed to set up a table in our cafeteria (but not to approach us ... they could only speak to interested parties who approached them), most kids just ignored them.  If you were seen getting information from the recruiters or talking to them, it was just like this weird stigma... like oh, look, there's a kid who has to go into the military, he/she has no other options.

I did not take notice of this ideology one way or another until years later.  I had my own plans and was very determined to stay on my own "right track" at that time.  No, I was not one of those who made fun of other kids for going to the military or any other reason.  I didn't judge people, as I don't now.  But looking back, I know that the kids were judged.  And I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out why.

To learn about that war and so many other aspects of what our country has done, been like, etc., I've had to educate myself.  I did not learn most of the things I feel are very important about our nation's place in the world until after college, when I took it upon myself to ask questions of relatives and friends, to read all the books and other literature I could find, to know this place where I grew up safe and sheltered.

Today, largely because of what happened on September 11, 2001, I live in a different environment, a different world of ideas and ideals.  Now I have lived to see the boys who are of age voice their opinions on what they would do should another draft be put into effect.  Now I have known grown men (and a few women), my former classmates and my friends, who have enlisted.  Now I have communicated with guys from my neighborhood, my generation, all over the world, some who have been sent into battle and some who have not.  Now I'm living in the world that most people have always lived in, the one in which wars break out, the one in which war changes everything, the one in which people go away to serve those of us living here at home, and sometimes they don't come back.  I am sobered and humbled and matured by these experiences and this knowledge.  I have changed along with the world in which I live, along with my country.   I, like everyone else, changed on that September day, for always.

If you are among the many people from all over the world who lost someone on September 11, God bless you.  My prayers and thoughts are always with you, not lessened at all by the time that has passed.  I will not be one who forgets that day.

If you or your loved ones are fighting for us, or stationed and trained anywhere in the world prepared to do so, my heart and thoughts are with you.   I pray that God will bless you and keep you and bring you back home to peace times again.  And I thank you for serving this country that I love.


LL Cool Joe said...

I do remember, I think it changed us all. Great post.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

This is a beautiful post, Tatyanna. Very well put. We must be close to the same age.

Hug Dorian for me.



Seedless said...

I remember the Challenger explosion, my mom let me stay home from school and watch it on the TV. I recall eating oatmeal while I watched it. I think I was in 2nd grade. I doubt I will ever forget that memory.

Anyways seems like everything is ok with you and same with me.