For a few minutes on this Nov. 11, maybe we can put aside the drama of the 2020 presidential election and take a moment to honor the many brave souls who put their lives on the line to ensure our continued freedom. Since we’ve been a country, we’ve had veterans, and while they’ve all fought for our liberties, their weapons and their treatment by citizens have changed throughout the centuries. That suggests the question: How will future veterans battle for our freedom and how will society feel about them?
Veterans of the Past
Muskets, rifles, bayonets, and swords – these were the main weapons of the soldiers of the past. Most combat was done on foot, face-to-face with the enemy. Starvation, disease, and the weather were also deadly adversaries endured by military troops. Battle wounds, even minor ones, could mean a death sentence, and going to a field hospital was not always helpful since medical knowledge and treatments were primitive. Soldiers would often go months without hearing from a loved one since mail delivery by foot and horse and later by stagecoaches and trains was not very reliable.
As technology advanced, so did weaponry. Now soldiers on a battlefield not only had to worry about the enemy on the other side of a rise or behind a grove of trees but also watch for attacks from the air when fighter planes entered the picture.
From George Washington to Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, veterans sought to protect America and her freedom. Audie Murphy is one such military person to remember. He was the most decorated soldier in World War II, receiving every single medal the United States awarded at the time and being decorated by the armies of Belgium and France. In total, he received 33 U.S. medals, including the Medal of Honor. After serving his country, Murphy went on to act in more than 40 movies before he died at the age of 46 in a plane crash.
Veterans of the Present
Today’s veterans face challenges different from those of their predecessors but still just as dangerous. Hand-to-hand combat still exists, but now fighting the enemy can involve tanks, planes, missiles, landmines, and bombs – destruction and death from a great distance. Instead of messengers sneaking behind lines on foot, information is delivered over radios and other communication devices. Strategies and battle plans are informed by programs and statistics, which can mitigate the dangers of charging into a situation. Infrared cameras give soldiers visuals at night, making it easier to find their targets and avoid becoming targets themselves.
Depending on the mission, most soldiers do not have to wait months to hear from their loved ones. The internet allows them to chat with and even see their friends and families, hearing their voices and viewing their faces. Medical knowledge and treatments have come a long way, and now, with technologically advanced prosthetics, an amputation is not a life sentence to disability.
Some famous veterans of the present include Clint Eastwood, who was a swim instructor and proved his skills when his plane ran out of gas and he jumped into the Pacific Ocean to swim a mile to shore. Chuck Norris, who joined the military because he had an interest in law enforcement, decided he needed to learn martial arts to deal with rowdy drunks. Bea Arthur, better known as Dorothy on the sitcom The Golden Girls, became one of the first members of the Women’s Reserve for the Marine Corps. Colin Powell, a four-star general, became the first black Secretary of State.
Veterans of the Future
What will veterans of the future face during their service? With the addition of the U.S. Space Force, we can be sure that the military experience and ways of doing things will change. While exploring the final frontier, these soldiers will prevent us from being hit by wayward asteroids and tackle other top-secret space pursuits. While they may not be fighting aliens from other solar systems and planets (or will they?), this newest branch of the military will carve out its own mission, protecting us in a way never before imagined.
Like the veterans of the past and present, these men and women will likely be separated from their families for months at a time and perhaps even longer. It is unlikely that they will experience a traditional battlefield, at least for a while. But they will still be performing dangerous missions, all in the name of protecting our country, our freedoms, and our liberties.
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