The next greatest generation

Lt. Col. Erik Daiga
415th Base Support Battalion commander

September marks the anniversary of two important events in our nation’s
history – the 60th anniversary of General Douglas MacArthur accepting
the Japanese surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri officially ending
World War II, and the fourth anniversary of 9/11, the unprecedented
terrorist attack on our soil that some argue was the beginning of the
next world war. Whether the Global War on Terrorism is in fact World
War III can be debated, but the bravery and determination of young
American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in both wars are

“The young Americans of this time constituted a generation birth-marked
for greatness, a generation of Americans that would take its place in
American history.”

As I read Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation” Labor Day weekend, I
couldn’t help but think his words not only describe the young Americans
who fought to save the world from the evils of fascism and
totalitarianism two generations ago, but also accurately characterize
today’s generation of young Americans in uniform fighting to save the
world from the evils of terrorism and religious intolerance.

Surprisingly, not everyone agrees with this premise. Two leading
psychologists, writing in a medical journal just a few months before
9/11, described this generation of young Americans as “lonely,
troubled, depressed, confused, and perpetrating our most troubling
social problems.” I don’t know what young Americans these psychologists
observed, but from the young Soldiers and Airmen I meet every day in
the KMC, I think the exact opposite is true.  

I believe a more accurate characterization of this generation of
Americans in uniform can be found in Austin Bay’s “The New Greatest
Generation,” which he wrote in 2004 after returning from Iraq: “This is
a battle-honed bunch with exceptional talent and motivation, young
people with a mature balance of idealism and realism, youthful cool and
professional competence.” We see these characteristics in our
all-volunteer force every day, right here in the KMC, as well as on the
battlefields of the Global War on Terrorism.

What can those of us on the home front do to support this next greatest
generation? We can do just as Americans did on the home front for the
first greatest generation during World War II. We can offer a helping
hand to the families of deployed Soldiers or Airmen. We can visit our
wounded warriors in the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center or in the
Kleber Medical Transient Detachment and thank them for their
sacrifices. We can tell them all how proud we are that they are our
country’s future – a generation of brave Americans who will take its
place on the highest pedestal of American history.