Ten years of war

Generation surrounded by war reacts patriotically, enlisted seniors faced with higher military standards…

Beena Raghavendran | Associate Editor

It has been ten years since 9/11. The falling of the Twin Towers from news clips, then, is one of this group of high school students’ first memories.

But this generation’s proximity to war and conflict throughout childhood is nothing new in America, according to U.S. Army Sergeant James Leitelt.

“Every generation has [its] wars,” Leitelt said. “[This] generation currently has the war on terrorism. [In] my generation, we had Iran, we had Somalia, we had Panama; …our parents [had] Vietnam [and] Korea, [our] grandparents had [the] World Wars, and it just goes back. So, to specifically point out this generation as being a generation of war — I wouldn’t label it that way.”

Though students have grown up in a world where war has always been present, assistant principal William Rice said that students are not as spurred by 9/11 to enlist today as they were a decade ago.

In fact, Rice said that Mason High School’s enlisting statistics for the class of 2011 are slightly lower than those of the class of 2010.

“If you just look at our [school’s] statistics [of enlistment], …we’re actually down this year as opposed to last,” Rice said. “Last year, we were up a little bit, but this year, officially, we only have seven [enlisting, as of] right now.”

Standards for joining the military are increasing, according to senior Olivia Mendoza, who is enlisting in the U.S. Air Force. Leitelt said the reason for the tighter standards is because of a decreasing demand for troops overseas.

“In the Air Force in 2008, training was only six and a half weeks, and now it’s eight and a half weeks,” Mendoza said. “I think [the military] just want[s] people…to be prepared and just have the right training to do their jobs.”

Combatting the average enlistment, Leitelt said, is this generation’s above-average involvement in the conflict overseas when compared to the generational reactions of students in eras such as the Vietnam War.

“Now, schools are sending out letters…[and] care packages, [and] the students are getting involved because they want to, not because they have to,” Leitelt said.

However, though this generation is on the whole familiar with the concept of war, society’s reaction to the war — even after ten years of conflict — is a disconnection when it comes to actualities overseas, Rice said.

“Wars that we’ve seen before [were] societal change[s]; [they were] war[s] as much on the home front, in terms of your economy shifting to fight the war,” Rice said. “With Vietnam, we saw such a movement to get out of that war, and a generation that was empowered to speak out against that war. And this one is just quietly being fought, even though we have a couple hundred thousand men and women that are serving in it in two different battlefronts.”