|Copyright ©2015 Mark Kelly.|
Odd topic, I know. But why choose this? For the second time I am reading Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose, and I cannot help but be moved by the incredible courage, sacrifice and determination that these young men displayed during a time when the whole world was lost in an ocean of chaos, suffering and uncertainty.
Asides from the controversy that dogged Ambrose, even after his death, regarding plagiarism and innacuracies, his book regarding the forming, training and deployments of Easy Company of the 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy, to the ill-fated Operation Market Garden debacle, and eventually to Hitler's Eagle's Nest, leave you feeling awed, humbled, sometimes saddened, but for me, overall, is greatful. And make no mistake, these men were not alone in such things, as on all sides, amongst all nations, such groups of men existed, but have had little said about them and what they did.
Greatful to those young souls, often no older than 18, who believed in a better world, decency and the right to freedom. Drawn from a generation who lived through the Great Depression of 1929 that spread worldwide, they were a breed who had it rough. By this I don't just mean as a specific nation, but on a world-wide scale generation. Life, even before the second world war and after the first world war was still a battle for this generation. But there was a sense of courage and readiness to do the right thing, regardless of which side. Ultimately, the world wide youth were thrown into a tumbling mix of political machinations initiated by one, but eventually picked up and perpetuated by others of a similar ilk.
It is said that youth is wasted on the young. But upon reflection it was their youth that would be wasted on artillery blasted beaches, shrapnel shredded forests and machine gun peppered landscapes in the form of their deaths, sacrificing their young lives for generations of youth to follow.
I recall when I served in the Territorial Army, specifically the 144 Parachute Squadron (V) as a combat medic, there were nights in our regimental mess that WWII veterans from the local area would attend for an evening of friendly banter with former comrades over a beer. They would look at us and I could see in their eyes, accompanied with wistful half-smiles, they were thinking back to a time when they were of a similar age, full of life, energy and vitality... and no doubt about the friends they'd lost along the way. Even back then, I felt honoured to be in their presence, seeing the Airborne wings of both Parachute Regiment and a couple SAS insignia.
It makes you realise how insignificant and meaningless, trivial and trite the values of today's youth (but not all, granted) are, as epitomized by a certain female Kardashian - the only person so vain as to 'celebrate' Earth Day with a 'selfie' of herself in a white bikini. Urgh.
But it also makes me sometimes question myself: 'Am I leading a life worthy of the sacrifice of their generation? Am I living it to the fullest and being the best that I can be?' Sadly, the answer if often 'no', for which I have no excuse.