by Hunter Scott, National Youth Representative, World War II Veterans Committee

Once again, the United States has been at war with Iraq. For over a year, we have been at war with terrorism. Now, more than ever, it is important to get behind our troops, our government, and our Veterans, to let them know how proud we are of their service and sacrifice for this great nation, to let them know that they truly are heroes.

I am seventeen years old, and I have noticed great changes in American life and security during the last two years. More and more schools are equipped with metal detectors, airports are beset with military personnel carrying machine guns, and government buildings and court houses are filled with hidden surveillance cameras. A wall has been built in front of the east entrance to the United States Capitol, and a new cabinet position was created and appropriately named the “Department of Homeland Security.” On a positive note, I have noticed growing support for our troops, veterans, and fellow Americans. While we were at war I would get home from my daily activities and watch Operation Iraqi Freedom on television. I was impressed with the attention of the media focus, not on the billions of dollars spent during the war, but on the lives of the soldiers and the return of the prisoners of war. America rejoiced every time even one POW was returned, or one life was saved. America mourned every time a life was lost. To me, this shows the pride and love in everyone’s heart for our servicemen.

Regardless of our political opinions, the United States IS still at war, and the troops DO need the support of their fellow countrymen. As Americans, it is our responsibility to get behind these men and women whose lives are in harm’s way, and let them know how much we appreciate their dedication to this country. These men and women have taken risks with honor to ensure our freedom. The least we can do is to observe a moment of silence each day, or say a prayer, to remember our troops and veterans and pray for a quick end to the war with the least number of casualties.

I would like to offer some suggestions for supporting our troops before our soldiers come home from Iraq. My high school is participating in “Operation Zip-lock” which is a troop-support program where students around the nation fill zip-lock bags with toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, and toiletries to send to our soldiers. There are numerous similar programs like this one with which to be involved. I would also suggest organizing or attending a “Support Our Troops” rally. I am a firm believer that one of the best ways to support our troops is to write them a letter. A simple “thank-you for serving the country” letter would mean more to the recipient than anything else we could do. A letter to our troops would give them hope and something to look forward to when they return home to the United States. Even a simple “thank-you” would serve as a morale-booster and provide our soldiers with a refreshed hope and desire to ensure the United States of America remains the greatest country in the world. The opportunities for supporting our soldiers are countless, and the need for supporting them is infinite. The support our troops receive tremendously affects the outcome of the war and reminds our troops they serve for the good of all citizens of a grateful country.

I cannot stress enough the importance of supporting our troops, but I also want to emphasize the importance of honoring our veterans and our servicemen as they return home. One evening during a news broadcast covering the Iraqi war I observed someone handing a wounded soldier a cell phone so he could call home and tell his family he had been wounded, but was going to be fine. I think about our World War II veterans who fought a different kind of war and the families of these men and women who went for great lengths of time with no communication from family members in the service of their country. I can remember talking to Morgan Mosley (survivor of the USS Indianapolis) and him showing me the telegram sent to his mother informing her that he was a casualty of war. She thought that casualty meant that Morgan had been killed in action and she mourned over the loss of her son. Mr. Mosley can still remember when his mother was informed some time later that her son would be coming home. With today’s technology our soldiers face hardships and difficult conditions but in a very different way than the veterans of World War II.

As the Youth Spokesman for the World War II Veterans Committee, I would like to urge students, parents, and teachers all over the country, to make a concerted attempt to document the history of a relative or close friend who served during WWII, Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Korea, Vietnam, or any other war, conflict, or deployment. There will be a day when the Greatest Generation will exist only in the hearts and minds of those who recorded their history. It is up to us, as the future of this country, to preserve the heroic legacy of all troops and veterans so that our children and grandchildren will know of the sacrifices that so many men and women made to ensure our freedom.

Even though America thinks we now know what war is like from watching the news broadcasts, I know from talking with veterans that war is not pleasant, pretty, or even desirable. War is difficult on all involved; people suffer and die in ways we who have never been in battle could ever imagine. Our veterans live with mental scars, many of which are never visible, but scars nonetheless. We need to pay homage to those who put their physical and mental lives on the line in the service of this country and remember those who never return except in the memory of their families and fellow service men and women. Most Americans have seen war with their eyes, but they have not felt war in the depths of their soul unless they have served and bore witness to the horrors firsthand. Know that the soul of any veteran who served in combat has been touched and be thankful that they took the risk so most of us will never have to experience war in the depths of our souls.