Editorial – Veterans once were young

Jeff Burgar

Families, politicians, community pundits, philosophers, bar flies and coffee shop denizens have all chewed much fat over upcoming generations. Most were disturbed. They saw a vast cohort of aimless and wasted youth. Youth who eventually, as they aged and took their place as members of society, were believed likely to rule over, and probably be the cause of, the decline of civilization.

From ancient Greece, across 2,000 years of history, the refrain was much the same. Youth who have trouble getting out of bed, no respect for elders, don’t take direction well, plus a host of other ills, are horribly unfit to be on their own in dog-eat-dog worlds of any century.

As may or may not be appropriate, the state of youth was also a topic for many the past weeks, as we marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

“Oh my goodness,” people exclaimed. “Can you imagine what shape we would be in today if we had to fight a big war?”

It has to be said, problems our nation, or the entire free world for that matter, have are not because a teenager didn’t go to school because she couldn’t find the right jeans. Nor are they there because three or four students decided to cut classes. Or couldn’t get to a job in time. Or lipped off to a teacher. Or needed to play on their phone while they were supposed to be at work.

The real problems in our world are not because of young people. The problems exist because of grown-ups. It’s grown-ups who tell us we have no responsibility for our actions. Grown-ups tell us government will always look after us. Grown-ups say the world is a kind, loving place. Grown-ups tell us the more loving and giving we are, the more we will be loved in return.

Of course, these are all wonderful thoughts.

But there is truth in the words, “Don’t go looking for trouble. But when trouble comes looking for you, be ready.” “Walk softly, but carry a big stick.” “Feed a man a fish, and he will be hungry again tomorrow. Teach a man to fish, and he will feed himself.” These are all wise words. There are many more of them.

Many not so wise words have said young people are a problem. They will never look after themselves. Really, it’s misguided grown-ups spreading that message. Maybe such folks are well-meaning. Maybe they are simply wearing rose-coloured glassed. They are still misguided.

In reality, even in the days of ancient history, wars are never started by teenagers and youngsters barely in their twenties. The reality is, wars are ended by exactly those people.

Without those young men and women, we would not have the freedoms we take for granted today. The grave of the youngest person who fought in Normandy on D-Day is that of a 17-year-old. There are thousands like that.

Yes, there is foolishness and ignorance. It is often said, the future is in the hands of our children.

History has shown, when chips are down and push comes to shove, our children answer the calls to clean up the mess adults leave them. And often said too, they never have a chance to grow old.

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