The newest Time Magazine cover proclaims them the New Greatest Generation – 5 young people holding part of their prior lives: their uniforms. As Paul Reickhoff , the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), said in an article in Forbes.com – TIME magazine published an iconic picture of three young troops in 2003, when they proclaimed the TIME Magazine Person of the Year “the American Soldier.” I remember that cover very well, since our son was downrange with 1st Armored Division– the unit tab on the uniforms on TIME echoed my son’s own sleeve.
This was when “thank the troops” was a new phrase, when yellow ribbons encircled trees in parks from Maine to Montana, Connecticut to Kansas, Minnesota to Texas. Those ribbons are pale remnants now, and our country is becoming weary or complacent about the 1% of our population who are at war.
The 5 young people on the new TIME Magazine cover won’t let you be complacent. These are the future movers and shakers, these are the men and women who won’t let you ignore the veterans amongst us. They aren’t asking for a hand out, they are the ones advocating for their fellow veterans, building homes for them, organizing, educating.
Paul Reickhoff, Liz Young McNally, Wes Moore, John Gallina and Dale Beatty represent the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are not going to sit back and wait for a “grateful nation” to give them anything. They are going out, shaking the trees, making a difference and getting the education that will help them make the changes that are needed. As Reickhoff says “….we are not a charity, we’re an investment.” John Gallina and Dale Beatty were both wounded in the same IED blast; built an “adapted” house for Beatty and realized that Gallina’s “invisible” wounds were healing by doing as well - and began Purple Heart Homes which builds handicapped access homes for veterans of ALL wars.
A friend of mine mused that since only 1% of the population is actually connected in some way to the military , we should call this the Greatest of a Generation. Support the wars or not, these men and women have come out of the military with drive, determination and a willingness to buckle down, work and make a difference. They are going to be in Congress, in State Houses, running corporations and non profits. Keep an eye on these young men and women – you’ll be seeing a lot of them.
Their families too, are part of this generation – the spouses who held families together during deployment, attended the memorial services, and forged bonds with their fellow spouses that survive for years; the children who survived long absences by their parent, and who grew stronger in spite of it. There are families in crisis – that’s a given; and not all families have survived well.
But today – today we’ll celebrate the men and women who are bringing their drive, their passion, their commitment to service and their experience and telling us all: we are here, we are the future.
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