My brother, generation older than I am that he was, enlisted fresh out of high school, while WWII was still on, but not for much longer, missing it by a hair. He looks impossibly young in his Navy uniform. Unlike my father, as the arrogant young flier of WWI.
He was 19, and trained on a Jenny to go shoot down German planes, in Berkeley, of all places. But the day before they were to ship out for Germany, they marched his company right into a metal spike on the edge the parade ground, and he fell over it, doing 32 stitches worth of damage to his leg. He was in the hospital recuperating while his company of the Field Service Corps went to Germany. By the time the next deployment was ready, the War To End All Wars was over. All that training just fed into a 1920's hobby of barnstorming. And gave me an interest in aircraft.
But then there were the fathers of friends... The father and uncle of an old boyfriend flipped buzzbombs over the Channel---white knuckle stories all around. But not half so terrifying as the stories of another friend's father, a kid on a carrier in the Pacific, that came under kamikazi attack. Those were the stories that brought home the full horror of war. A lot of folks who went through experiences like that never talk about them. He did, and I'm glad he did. It was something I needed to know, strong nerves and strong stomach though it took.
And since then, I've heard stories from friends who were in 'Nam, or just horrific things that can happen even in the peacetime military, like seeing a sailor being sucked into a jet engine. The lives of military personnel are precarious, and it's not an easy ride. We need to remember what it takes to protect our nation.