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THE MILLENNIAL SCHISM

Ed.Note: OK, so I am slacking this week and have actually broken the Secret Hideout rule twice which states no beer shall be consumed between the hours of 0600 and 1200 noon because well, it looks bad for the kids and grandkids.  The last thing I had any intention of doing this week was a blog post.  BFF Cait bailed me out and submitted the following.  My notes on the post appear in italics.

Blog by BFF Cait.

In action at Dover

Earlier this week, 7 Sailors who were killed in Japan when their destroyer the USS Fitzgerald was accidentally hit by a cargo ship, arrived back home to the states in transfer cases carried by members of the US Navy Honor Guard on a flightline at Dover, DE. It’s a situation I am intimately familiar with and it’s about this time each year that the memories of 2012 are in my daily, sometimes hourly thoughts. (Cait did a deployment at Mortuary Affairs and I think you should re-visit that post.)  What always strikes me the hardest is how young most of the fallen were. Hell, how young * I * was. And it struck me again with those Sailors on board the Fitzgerald– six of them ranging from age 19-26, which means all of them were born in the 1990s. And firmly in the camp of millennials. We’ll get to the seventh soldier, Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., who was 37, in a bit.

Millennials. Ugh. Gross. Even I can barely stand to say the word and I am one!  Millennial is the affectionate term for anyone born in the 80’s and beyond and then came of age in the new millennium. For myself, I turned 13 five months into the new millennium, so I guess I don’t have an argument against whether I’m a millennial or not. But I am here to tell you that there is a huge schism in the millennial church. And it’s not one that you would normally see unless, like Dad likes to say, you have a dog in the fight.

Working hard during a building evacuation w/two babies

Just google Millennials and you’ll find a plethora of pieces about Millennials liking one thing ( we like public libraries! ) or hating another (groceries, apparently ). Time revered us as the “ME ME ME” generation, and looking at the Snapchat stories, the Insta feeds, and Twitters of my millennial brethren on the other side of the schism, it’s easy to see why. Also, if everything I said was just Greek- I apologize. Also, no one uses Facebook anymore– that’s for old people. If you have a millennial child, I guarantee their real exploits are contained on another social media platform where the prying eyes of Nana and Great Aunt Judy are nowhere to be found. We love taking selfies, and we feel the insatiable urge to document EVERYTHING. I was recently part of a female millennial herd (what we have dubbed a “#squad”) for a bachelorette party and it was enlightening, if not terribly exhausting. For the party, we had our own personalized Snapchat filter, listened to a party mix on Spotify while getting ready, summoned a stranger from the internet via our smartphones for a ride with Uber and shared the cost for things on Venmo. I’m not sure how people did bachelorette parties before smartphones and social media, but I suppose they still happened. But if you go out with your #squad and don’t snap about it– did it really happen? We are an EXTREMELY vain and self-focused culture. Well, the large majority of us that is.

Which brings me to the schism. I’m a part of a big group of millennials who are not about themselves at all– the millennials ranging from age 18-36/37– who at one point in their lives stepped into a federal building with likely no concept of what they had truly gotten themselves into. Once there, someone took their beloved smartphone away, they were poked and prodded, made to duck walk across the floor in skivvies (omg, the horror, no special snowflake crap here! Do it or leave!) and then if deemed passable (not everyone is a ‘winner’ here, buckaroo) they were allowed to raise their right hand and volunteer to die for their country. Millennials serve in the military everyday, and we are nothing like our civilian millennial counterparts.

It is surely a strange relationship between the two halves. Sixty percent of millennials now apparently support the use of ground forces  forces in the fight against ISIS, however just 15% of those 60% conveyed “any interest whatsoever” in joining the military to, you know, put your money where your mouth is. They want to stay in college, keep racking up that debt, and be able to use their safe space whenever they feel like it.


If I sound a little pissed, or aggressive- it’s because I am. I am sick of getting lumped in with these guys because the millennials I get to work with are complete opposites. I affectionately talk about my “babies”  (her babies are the staff in her shop she is responsible for) to anyone who will listen. I’m sure someone, somewhere probably has an issue with me referring to grown adults in an Air Force uniform as “babies” but that’s okay, because I like it and they don’t seem to mind it either. They’re fearless workers, outstanding professionals and each of them carries a knife. I’m proud of them and what they do to motivate each other and motivate me every single day. There is not an ounce of “me me me” in them, but they’ve got dedication and love for their comrades in spades.

(UNRELEASED) Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Public Affairs personnel in action June 30, 2012 at Dover Air Force Base, Del. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)
(BFF Cait)

Which brings me back to Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr.. He was an E-6, just like me. Allegedly, according to various accounts, FC1 Rehm was unharmed in the accident and could have escaped the ship safe and sound but leapt into action when he discovered his “kids” were trapped. There are some accounts that say he saved at least 20, repeatedly diving down to pull Sailors from the wreckage. Unwilling to leave his kids, he would save them all or die with them– which he did, just like so many NCOs before him in the warm waters of the Pacific.

Technically, FC1 Rehm and I are both millennials, but given that same situation, I can nearly guarantee I would make the same decision and if it was one of my babies trapped somewhere, you better believe I would be leaving there with them one way or another, on our feet or next to each other in matching flag-draped transfer cases.

So the next time you see an article about millennials ruining something else like the sport of running & Applebee’s this week, I want you to remember that even though it’s a small percentage, there are some selfless, dedicated, higher-purpose serving Millennials out there and we’re doing our best to raise our “kids” the same way.

End note: ‘American Man’ The Yawpers. When I see her colors, I know who I am  (a BFF Cait selection)

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15 comments to THE MILLENNIAL SCHISM

  • wallace

    Andy, please convey my personal thanks to Cait for her service to our country… and for writing an excellent article, too.

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  • Ken

    kids like this make the world right again. Makes me proud to have a passing acquaintance with one of em.

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  • Michael Barnett

    As a 30 year Army Retiree with a few deployments under my belt, I too had my “kids” luckily I was never put in that situation either, so I too can only hope I would do the same. Glad to hear that some of the Millennials are not the same! Just wish there where more. Like you my son is also serving now! Enjoy the hideout as it is always afternoon somewhere….

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  • Mike

    Well written. Thank Cait for reminding us that there are people of her generation that hold to old true values. Enjoy your time off,

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  • Jerry Criswell

    An outstanding post. Thank you Cait.

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  • Cait

    Thanks to all the kind words everyone. I see Pops failed to fix my typo in the first paragraph referring to FC1 Rehm as a soldier, not a sailor. A best friend deployed this weekend as part of the 82d Airborne with his kids to Nangarhar, I had soldiers on the brain! Thanks to everyone again, y’all are sweet.

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  • Tom Brown

    Andy,
    You are and you should be a VERY VERY Proud Papa!!!

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  • Paul Dahl

    Well written, Cait. I know exactly where you’re coming from, as a 30 year retiree from the Coast Guard. I entered service much older than the average recruit and had many of my “kids” as my boat crews.

    You are right, even today there are many young folks that step up and volunteer to put on this nation’s uniform and serve. I get to see many of them at a USO I have the privilege of working at. They are my next generation of my “kids” and I do my best to take care of them, too.

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    • Cait

      We love the USO! Such a welcome sight and the volunteers that run it are truly a cut above. Thank you!

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  • Linda Lallerstedt

    Thank you. And can I share this on my Facebook page? Very well written.

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  • Terry Berg

    Thank you Cait I know your daddy is very proud of you as I am of my daughter who also proudly wears the uniform of the US air force. Thank you for your service.

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  • Jim Bell

    Another great post! Thank you for passing on the information about Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr and his heroism that I found nowhere in the news.

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  • Vince

    That piece of fruit didn’t fall far from the tree.
    Had to remind myself that I’m reading Cait and not Andy.

    Very well written Miss Cait. And THANK YOU for your service.

    Our condolences to the families of those lost.
    How sad this is.

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  • Byron

    Awesome article! You have a great child there Andy and she is appreciated more than I can express in words. Please tell Cait I thank her for her tremendous service and dedication. And thank you for sharing.

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