I enjoy reading non-fiction books from time to time, and when I do, they are usually either World War II or Civil War related. Often I find myself wondering what I would have done had I lived during one of those times.
Recently, I read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. The book is the story of an Olympic runner who became a Japanese POW during WWII. I enjoyed the book, and I encourage you to read it. The general story is one that thousands of men lived through, but following one man's specific experience somehow makes it seem more real. But what it did more than anything is make me wonder how young men and women, and even myself, would have dealt with a similar situation today.
I don't know. I like to think that I'm a strong person, at least mentally, but it seems to me that not only was that a different place and time, but the people had different mentalities as well. They did what they had to do and there was less whining and griping about it. There wasn't the pervasive sense of entitlement that seems to exist today, especially in the younger generation. I know that I'm stereotyping, and there are definitely exceptions, but so many people seem to act like life always has to be fair and it's just not.
There are many brave young men and women in our military today. My son is one of them. He's currently stationed in TX, but he will probably be deployed sometime in the next year. Recently, his unit went on a training exercise where they had to camp out for a few days. There was an unexpected snow storm and it was much colder than it usually gets in TX. The way the wives (including my son's) freaked out about their husbands out in the cold you would have thought the Army had taken them to Siberia in January in shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops. No, they probably had not taken all the appropriate gear for the weather with them, but they were still on base, it wasn't like they couldn't get it. But even if they couldn't, they were only out there for a few days. Training is supposed to try to prepare them for the real thing, and sometimes you can't predict what's going to happen in the real thing. The Army certainly wasn't going to intentionally put them in harms way for a training exercise, but the training shouldn't be called off or ended early because the weather didn't cooperate. In war, shit happens, and these young men and women are going to war.
I guess my point is, somehow, I can't see the wives and mothers of the soldiers that were in Bastogne whining and complaining on the Army's Facebook page that their husbands and sons were freezing poor babies. I'm sure they were worried, and I'm sure they were praying hard, that they would survive and return home, but they weren't writing letters telling the Army they should just send the men home because it was too cold for them to be fighting a war.
As for the men whose stories are told in Unbroken, I certainly would never fault them if they complained about the conditions in which they were kept, but somehow I imagine them more focused on how to deal with those conditions and survive rather than sitting around whining about it.