SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

June 8, 2013

Cookson: 'Spoiled Generation' owes it to all Americans

Beverly’s annual Memorial Day ceremony is always quite moving, and this year was no exception. Particularly touching for me were the words of a 17-year-old from Boy Scout Troop 49, who spoke on the chilly and windy Sunday at Odell Park about what Memorial Day means to young people.

I know there have been times in my life when I’ve been guilty of accusing young people of acting “entitled” and not appreciating things. It struck me that this eloquent young man was anything but spoiled or unappreciative. He was very much aware of the opportunities he and his generation had been given, and was in fact, awed, humbled and even at a loss as to how we as citizens in this country can adequately express the debt of gratitude we owe to our veterans.

I won’t tell you his name right off the bat because he gradually revealed that in his speech, which is printed below:

“Good morning. My name is James. I’m 17, and I’ve been asked to speak about what Memorial Day means to young people. That’s all I’m going to tell you about myself, for now.

Now, what does Memorial Day mean to young people?

If you were to ask young people about that, they would probably use words like “sacrifice, thankfulness and gratitude,” which are all just big words that we can’t put any meaning behind. What I mean by that is, how can we as a generation possibly begin to comprehend the idea of being called upon by your government, to be shipped to a country you can’t confidently spell the name of, to a village you’ve never heard of before, surrounded by people you’ve never met?

What I’m saying is that we are a spoiled generation. We have no great war to fight, no draft, no saying goodbye, and no writing letters home to your mother. There is no reason for us as a generation to ever even consider the possibility that you may not be returning home again. So how could you possibly expect us to understand what it’s like to be an innocent victim of the monstrously inhumane tragedy that is war?

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