It seems as if there has always been a war going on my whole life. Early on, it was the war on drugs. President Bush (the first one)?would get on TV declaring drugs the enemy, and that the country would crack down on the trade. The TV?show "COPS" arrived just in time to help take down drug offenders, most of whom it seemed were hiding under plastic wading pools. Schools were inundated with anti-drug programs led by enthusiastic people and / or puppets.
Then there was the Persian Gulf War, a.k.a. Operation Desert Storm. That was the first "pop-culture war" of our generation, where elements of the conflict found their way into different facets of life. I remember getting Desert Storm trading cards in the gumball machine at Giant Eagle. My dad had a number of colorful T-shirts featuring Saddam Hussein in varying states of being taunted by the T-shirt slogan.
That war was also the first real televised war; everyone remembers those eerie night-vision missiles lighting up Baghdad on CNN. It made "Stormin' Norman"?a celebrity and a general (he also had his own trading card). Journalists reported with flaming oil fields as their backdrop.
Then came the Clinton-era Bosnia conflict. More bombs, more bombed-out buildings. More turmoil, more tears.
Then, of course, the war on terrorism. Sept. 11, 2001 was the first experience many of us had with being attacked in our own country. Soon, Iraq, Afghanistan; thousands of Americans were sent away to fight. Many never returned.
War was now more personal. People my age were fighting for our country. Brothers, sisters, classmates, cousins, friends.
War caused great uncertainty. When you are a kid, the adults assure you you'll be safe; when you grow up, you just have to have faith.
The Internet furthered the notion of a "pop-culture war,"?allowing soldiers to stay in touch back home using video chat and whatnot. Opinions arguing this side or that filled the web. Everyone from Bill O'Reilly to Miley Cyrus had an opinion. A separate war of words was fought at home.
Heartwarming soldier reunion videos featuring kids and dogs are a bittersweet window into the effects war has on Americans. I admit, I?bawl like a baby every time I see one.
I don't presume to know any solution to ensure the safety of our country and to bring peace to other countries. I?don't know if our generation is done being exposed to war.
I?know that young people leave to fight, and some don't come back the same. Only they know what they experienced, and how they are dealing with it.
I?know that I?am proud of all of them. Proud of my cousins, my grandfather, my friends who served this country. Proud of all of those who didn't return home from this war, or any other.
I?know that they deserve Memorial Day, and every day.