For every generation, there are defining moments that unite us in time. My generation and its future has been defined by a September day of crystal blue skies, when we watched in horror as our peaceful world ended, being torn in two by the ideas of a fanatical ideologue. On that day, I remember leaving my house to escape the scenes on the television and laying in the grass, looking up at the sky empty of contrails. It was a new world. I was fifteen, and I remember watching with excitement as the U.S. forces and Northern Alliance forces swept the Taliban from Afghanistan. I thought it was a police action, similar to Somalia or Bosnia. Two years later, as a junior in high school, I envied those of my generation who got to invade a foreign country as the War in Iraq began. I started college a year later, in 2004. All throughout college I followed the ups and downs of both wars, never consciously realizing how they had changed me and my generation. The first combat veterans began entering school in the following years, bringing with them first-hand accounts of the war. They grew younger as time went on, until, by senior year, there were veterans with two combat tours who were younger than I was. I remember driving back from a Christmas break visit to a friend and hearing the radio announce the death of Saddam Hussein. When we graduated, my best friend and I decided to join the Army National Guard. This decision seemed natural to us. As he nears the middle of his first combat tour and I have less than two weeks to commission, the implications of this decision grow weightier every day.
As I review the events of my life, I can easily say that I probably would not have joined the military if 9/11 had not occurred. Therefore, the man responsible for those attacks is also responsible for my wearing the uniform today. And last night, I learned of that man's death. Osama bin Laden left this world at the hands of men of my generation whose memories are the same as mine, whose lives were shaped by his actions. It is fitting that they should be the ones to bring about his end. As the news reports came in last night, I left to join my friends at a local bar. Grouped together were soldiers of all types: veterans of OIF I, II, and OEF; officers and enlisted; National Guard, Reserve, and Active; newly joined and retired. All united in yet another culminating moment for my generation: the death of the man responsible for changing our lives and those of our children for the foreseeable future. With us in memory were those of our generation who would not ever come home: last night was for them.