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“Where do we get such men? They leave this ship and they do their job. Then they must find this speck lost somewhere on the sea. When the find it they have to land on its pitching deck. Where do we get such men?” — RAdm. George Tarrant in The Bridges at Toko Ri, James Michener
The Bridge at Toko Ri was a novella Michener wrote in 1953. at the end of the Korean War. Set during that war, one of its themes was the question of whether the generation that became adults after World War II had the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the challenges of those times. Some felt that this new generation lacked the courage, the endurance, and the determination of the men who had fought World War II. They were weak and would fail, those people thought.
They did not fail. They ultimately formed the generation that won the 20th century’s third world war, the Cold War. defeating the Soviet Union so utterly it ceased to exist, joining Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany in the dustbin of history.
There are similar questions about those in their twenties and early thirties today, the Millenials. They are dismissed as snowflakes. Or they are seen as the nihilistic activists of Antifa, the sons of the rich and privileged rioting for amusement, who seek to enforce a stodgy, puritanical conformity on everyone else. Some, as in the early 1950s, declare the twentysomethings as a lost generation.
This last week two helicopter crews, manned mainly by those in the Millenial generation rescued over 200 people trapped by a wildfire in California. Despite absolutely horrendous conditions they did not just make one trip – they returned to rescue those who could not be evacuated on the first flight. They went against advice. It was too dangerous they were told. And yet they went anyway. It was an extraordinary accomplishment. It won the admiration of @bossmongo, a man of an earlier generation whose fortitude and courage is unquestioned.
Far too often the worst among us gain the most attention. Those who do their tasks, quietly, competently, and courageously are often ignored. And the behaviors of the worst of each generation are not unique to that generation. You can find examples of rich rioters and snowflakes in every generation, starting with the Ancient Egyptians.
The Bridges at Toko Ri ended with an unsuccessful helicopter rescue mission. This week saw the California National Guard on a mission that ended with a successful helicopter rescue mission. (Perhaps that is the difference between fiction and fact.) Yet both leave us with the same question:
Where do we get such men?Published in