I was in my senior year of high school on September 11th 2001. It was another morning in computer class. Mr. Greer came in and said that he didn’t want to upset anybody but that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. We figured it was some kind of large scale accident. I recalled seeing on the History Channel how a Mustang fighter jet had accidentally plowed into the Empire State Building back in the day. For the next couple hours rumors began to fly and we heard about a second plane hitting the World Trade Center.
After class, I got in my car to drive home and tried desperately to get some radio reception. I could only hear bits and pieces. There were stories that the State Department had been bombed being reported in the media. This turned out to be false but it demonstrates that America was going into a state of panic. Only after I got home and turned on the television did I fully realize what had happened. My mother asked me if I still wanted to join the Army knowing what was coming. Hells yeah I did.
I’m not much for melodrama or cynical nostalgia. Every generation wants a defining event. I even remember my social studies teacher telling us that we “got our Pearl Harbor moment” before the dust had even settled at ground zero. It was as if we wanted and needed a 9/11 type event to define who we are. Yes, the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were horrible, but you don’t need me to tell you that. 9/11 really did come to define some of us, but mostly we are a sub-set of our generation: those who signed the dotted line, raised our hand, and were sworn in.
While many of our predecessors in the military sat around in the 80’s and 90’s waiting for an occasional war, my generation got to be the war generation. My peers jumped into Afghanistan and Iraq. I came into the Army in 2002 after graduating high school and much to my frustration, I was still stuck in the Ranger Indoctrination Program when the 75th took part in the invasion of Iraq.
But times change. How many of those Rangers who jumped into Iraq are still in the Army? How many Green Berets who rode on horses in Afghanistan are still serving? They are few and far between. In a inter-generational war, my generation has now gifted this great burden to a younger one. It isn’t a pleasant feeling knowing that your kid may very well be humping a ruck in the desert or flying a remote control airplane, blowing up people they never even met.
For the younger generation, the so-called millennials, there is no living memory of a time when America was not at war. They were too young to remember 9/11 so this forever war is just the natural state of being for them. The Global War on Terror has taken on a life of its own, and eventually will be decoupled from the events of September the 11th, 2001 entirely.
With no end in sight, and the body count growing by the day, all we can say for ourselves is that there is war in Eurasia. There has always been war in Eurasia.