(This is very long, so if you get bored, Jesse, feel free to delete this before I really get on a roll.  I know how limited your attention span is.)
You know, I've been reading this recent back-and-forth dialogue about "young" vs. "old" MKs the past several days with interest and amusement.  While I realize that the bsp;
First, about this perceived generation gap.  I am reminded of something that happened to me as a young, 18-year-old Marine at my first duty station.  I was invited to join the Marine Corps League, and when I went to the first meeting, I was surprised at the wide range in ages of its members.  There were World War II vets talking to guys who had just returned from Viet Nam, and Korean War members chatting with boot camp graduates who would probably never even see combat.  I watched in fascination as one really grizzled, scarred former-Master Gunnery Sergeant who had lost an eye, a finger, and God-knows-what-else at Tarawa and Iwo Jima politely listened to a 19-year old kid talking about the "hell" he had just gone through at Parris Island.  When the kid was finished, the old Gunny congratulated him on making it through boot camp, bought him a beer, and they made a toast to the Corps.  When the kid left, I started talking to the old Gunny.  I said something like, "It really impressed me how someone like you, who really did survive a hell-on-earth in the South Pacific, can relate to this kid who is 30 years younger, fresh out of high school, and just graduated from boot camp.  I wouldn't think you two would have anything in common."  The Gunny thought about it for a minute, and then said, "You're wrong.  We do have something in common and we always will.  We're both Marines." 
You know, I used to get kidded a lot about being a former "jarhead," but we can all learn a lesson from the Corps when it comes to camaraderie and pride.  We were (and are) all MKs, whether it was flying in support of the Cuban Missile Crisis or peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia and Somalia.  It doesn't matter if we flew missions over South Viet Nam or over Kuwait, the danger was there.  The other day, I saw a bumper sticker that really disturbed me.  It read; "If you ain't a Viet Nam vet, you ain't a vet."  One's justifiable pride of being a member of that troubled era is understandable, but the categorical statement it professed couldn't be farther from the truth.  Tell the family members of the Marines that perished in the barracks in Beirut or the SEALS that died in the assault on the airport in Panama City that their deaths were less significant because of the time and conflict in which they served.  A Scud attack on Riyadh was just as deadly as a mortar attack on DaNang, and even the "peacetime" mission of counter drug support carries the same risks of not coming back (just ask Trout).
Did these "whippersnappers" get the job done while they were having fun?  Damn right they did, and I have no doubt they still do.  The MKs of today face a much more diverse, intangible challenge than we did 20 years ago.  Even as recent as the late '70s, we only had to concentrate on the Warsaw Pact targets and "conventional" warfare.  We had a fairly structured, traditional enemy, one who was seen as a constant threat, whether it was in the form of Soviet forces along the European frontier, through a satellite state like Cuba, or from Chinese-backed troops coming from North Viet Nam, we knew our enemy and we were prepared.  All that started to change in the '80s, when the Reagan Administration decided to focus our intel assets on Central America, and later in the decade when Bush offered the military for use in the Drug War.  
Since then, a scant "half-generation" ago, we have seen our MK's being deployed all over the world in scenarios and operations that were unforeseeable a few years ago.  And not only have the targets changed, but take a look at the platforms themselves.  Those who flew nothing but "Block I" and Levi would be totally astounded at the technological marvel that is present-day intelligence collection.  The modern MK is no longer a cloistered, categorized operator working within well-defined, conventional target.  He or she (yes, old-timers, there are "she's" doing the job just as good as you used to) must be capable of responding to any threat anywhere in the world, and that often involves being qualified on multiple platforms, systems, and often, languages.  I, for one, love to talk about the "good old days" and how it used to be "back when we had a REAL mission," but I respect, honor, and feel great pride in being associated with ALL MKs, past, present, and future.  We have a tradition that must be passed from generation to generation, one that transcends any potentially-divisive generational or cultural differences.   Like the old Gunny said, we share something that will always bond us together, no matter how many years or conflicts may separate us.  We should always express our great pride in being a part of something as powerful as the MK brotherhood, something that identifies us not only as "former MKs," but as "Familia."  I will extend my hand to the freshest, greenest trainee as quickly as to the most revered, seasoned retiree.  Once an MK, always an MK.  Or, as Espy aptly put it, "Frijolero por vida!"
Patria o Muerte!
Comandante Hugo


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