Op-Ed: This Memorial Day Marks a Stark Change Among Veterans - America's Future Is at Stake


Every year, Americans gather on the last Sunday in May to commemorate the men and women who died in uniform protecting our country and defending our liberties.

But this may be the first Memorial Day in our history on which, while our nation’s veterans enjoy the company of their families and friends, they advise the younger generation against serving as they did.

We keep hearing it from friends and colleagues, and maybe you’ve even seen veterans on social media discussing it. As one proud retired Marine pilot posted on Twitter, “I come from a long line of veterans. Military service was encouraged, even after Vietnam. Now most [global war on terror] vets are actively discouraging their kids from enlisting. Interesting times ahead.”

His sentiments resonated with other “global war on terror” or GWOT vets:

“I came from a long line of military service dating back to the Revolution. I’m a GWOT guy and starting about a year ago, have actively discouraged my kids from joining. It pains me to do it but I can’t in good faith encourage it.”

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“Same,” wrote another. “Ten generations ends with me.”

War is mankind’s most brutal enterprise. Even those who return whole from the battlefield may carry scars with them for years. In Homer’s account of the Trojan War, it took the great warrior Odysseus more than a decade to find his way back home. A friend who was seriously wounded in Iraq told us he was struck rereading the Greek epic, as it took him the same 10 years to recover from his physical and psychological injuries.

It is no mystery that war causes pain and in many cases regret. But what the veterans of the GWOT are expressing is something America has never seen before. What’s caused it?

It was the nature of the war itself, culminating in the withdrawal from Afghanistan during which 13 service members were killed by a suicide bomber while they were helping evacuate civilians at the airport in Kabul. It was the image of Afghan men clinging to troop transport planes, from which many fell to their gruesome deaths. It was the recognition that for 20 years, the U.S. had no clear strategy — not for winning the war, nor even for withdrawing from it.

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The anger and resentment of GWOT vets is the logical response to the character of the American leaders who recklessly spent American lives for two decades.

“Let’s go spill blood over weapons of mass destruction and fight the Taliban for 2 decades only to leave making all of the blood spilled essentially for nothing,” another veteran posted in response to the Marine pilot. “Every service member who was deployed to the Middle East should be furious with our worthless lawmakers.”

“Keep the warriors home,” another added. “Stop dying for spineless politicians.”

Another warrior attributed his conviction to the transformation of American society, at least in its elite quarters far from where U.S. servicemen are sent to fight for their fellow citizens.

“It’s because the military has gone woke,” he wrote. “I served for nine years and after the vax mandates, change of the word ‘equality’ to ‘equity,’ and several ‘mandatory transgender sensitivity’ trainings, I figured my kind weren’t welcome anymore. Their recruitment crisis is their fault.”

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In other words, the fundamental issue isn’t GWOT vets steering their children away from the armed services; it’s that the military itself is pushing those kids away, and their parents are only helping them read the writing on the wall.

The message is clear when political leadership degrades and insults the communities holding to traditional values that customarily furnish the military with men and women willing to fight and die for our country and our freedom. Instead of recognizing them as among the best America produces, the current administration defames and labels them as “white supremacists” or “domestic terrorists.”

“They tell us it’s not our country anymore,” wrote one vet in disgust. “Ok great, you fight for it then.”

Taken together, what the GWOT vets are saying is that the fight for American freedom is here at home right now, not on foreign fields of battle. Those who most threaten our liberties and who have laid waste to our constitutional order are not foreign nationals but rather carry U.S. passports.

This Memorial Day, as we remember and give thanks to the long line of Americans who risked it all to defend us, we also look to the future. Our fate and our freedom may rest with the rising generation of Americans whose families long served our great nation. Held in contempt by our political and military leaders, they are the finest among us, and thus it depends on us, their elders, to create space and opportunity for them to serve the nation here at home.

As one veteran wrote, “Those who choose to serve their country deserve better than how their country abuses that service.”

We at America’s Future vow to honor those who choose to serve as we revere our fallen. May God bless the men and women over generations who shed their blood and gave their all for everlasting freedom in America.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Mary Flynn O’Neill is executive director of America’s Future, Inc., among the nation’s oldest educational nonprofits dedicated to protecting our God-given rights, American values and traditions, and the republic. To learn more, visit