My generation of veterans has adopted an odd moniker: The Next Greatest Generation. We grew up watching Band of Brothers and found parallels in this dramatization of World War II experiences to what we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan—brotherhood, sacrifice, the struggle to endure long and bitter conflicts. We’re just as capable as they were, and they changed the world, the thinking goes. We proclaim our greatness at the beginning of the second chapter of our lives.
But there’s a problem with that logic: It means our sense of greatness is derived from that first chapter. While some of the greatest contributions the World War II generation gave this country happened after the war, our self-admiration is based entirely, by contrast, from our time in service. And that troubling attitude means a continued isolation from the society we left behind.