- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 21, 2001

Fresh from the Depression and accustomed to sacrifice, young men from around the country answered the call in droves to fight in World War II. While losses were grave, their bravery was profound.
Now, as the United States is in the midst of a military campaign against global terrorism, many Americans echo President Bush in expressing confidence in the mettle of those who are in combat.
Others, however, ask whether the latest generation, born in a time of prosperity and raised to expect that most things come easily, can rise to the challenge.
"Today's generations are not as tough as our forefathers," says Robert L. Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who is vice president for policy at the Family Research Council in Washington.
Mr. Maginnis, a West Point graduate who served as chief of the U.S. Army Infantry School's leadership program, says troops today have much to learn from those who led decades ago.
"Our grandparents or our parents, they understood sacrifices and that things weren't going to be given to them on a silver platter, that they'd have to work for it," Mr. Maginnis says. "Today, they expect everything to have instant, instant success. The whole value system has shifted over the years in what they place as being more important."
John Campbell, who joined the Army two months shy of his 20th birthday in 1942, thinks that today's forces will step up to the terrorism challenge, but he calls this conflict a different kind of battle.
"I think people realize that this is more of a spiritual war than we thought it was in 1941," says Mr. Campbell, 78, a resident of Cheshire, Conn.
"We are wrestling not against flesh and blood, but against power that we can't see," he says. "This is a religious war, and it scares me to death."
George M. Couper, a veteran of the Korean War and national commander of a grass-roots group called Veterans in Politics Inc., says today's soldiers are courageous.
But, he adds, they are dueling with a different enemy one that fuels fears by living among us "in the shadows."
"When we were fighting the war, we were fighting a war within a country," says Mr. Couper, 71, of Portland, Maine. "But today, we're fighting what you could say is espionage, traitors to our own cause. They are all over the world, but they are also right here in the United States."
Other veterans have fewer reservations.
"People that are now serving in the military I expect are well-trained, and they should be capable of doing what they need to do just as my generation did," says Alexandria resident Frank Costagliola, the Washington liaison for the Pearl Harbor Survivors' Association. Mr. Costagliola was aboard the USS Phoenix the morning of the Japanese attack. His ship was not damaged, and he went on to serve through the end of World War II, making the Navy his career and retiring after 30 years of service.
"I think they'll come up with it OK," he says of those deployed to Afghanistan. "I'm sure they will live up to their capabilities."
Leon Hachat, 28, a West Point graduate who left the Army in August 2000 after serving for five years, says his generation is not as able as previous ones. Still, he believes current forces can get the job done.
Their success, he says, will be assured with the strong support of the Bush administration.
Mr. Hachat allows that attitudes and values have changed greatly in the past 50 years, and that those changes will affect not only the way troops perform but also how the public reacts to a long campaign.
"Back in World War II, people in general were willing to sacrifice their lives, their sons, their brothers, their daughters, their sisters," says Mr. Hachat, a software engineer from Dumfries, Va. "Whereas now, especially in the military, any time someone dies, or if there are casualties in combat, public opinion shifts away from whether it's the right thing to do or not."
MSNBC-TV military analyst Ken Allard, a retired U.S. Army colonel, says the jury is still out on how this young fighting force responds to the war on terror.
"I worry a great deal about what has been described as the attention-deficit generation," Mr. Allard says. "I simply think what you are seeing now is a time of great testing."
Northern Virginia resident Katherine Williamson, 26, whose grandfather served as an Army pilot in World War II, says her generation, "Generation X," is one that has lived fat and happy and spoiled.
But her confidence in her peers to meet a challenge increased, Miss Williamson says, when a cousin returned from active duty in Somalia talking about friends he had lost and the realities of living through conflict. He made her understand why the nation is worth protecting, something she describes as "a gift."
"Maybe this generation's legacy will be combining the good things about the ways our parents and grandparents dealt with war to make soldiers ready for sacrifice," Miss Williamson says, "but also ready to come back and share the reality of war with the country, both for their own good and ours."

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide