The United State of America is founded on the right of freedom and the fight for that freedom has left a long legacy of veterans, who have starred our history with acts of bravery and courage.
News 4's Denise Bradberry spoke with a number of our American heroes to find out just how warfare is changing in the first part of her series “A Legacy of Heroes.”
When the word veteran comes to mind, you may think of those who fought in World War Two or Vietnam, but as the war on terror continues America now has a new generation of veterans who are fighting a very different war.
"Today’s veterans are no different than those from past wars and conflicts. The theme of service before self is constant it's one that binds our veterans together throughout the decades throughout the wars,” says Brig. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield from Fort Rucker.
No matter the conflict or adversary, each American war was fought by soldiers who were willing to give up everything to defend and protect.
But veterans from previous battles say today's warfare is very different from their tours overseas.
“It’s a different kind of war. Korea, WW2, those wars, you fought a uniformed military on the other side. Today you don't. You're fighting a coward who hides and kills innocent people,” says one veteran who served on the USS Bennington.
“They are fighting and sacrificing in ways and in numbers that we have not seen before. I know this first hand because I've served alongside them,” says Brig. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield.
In Iraq and Afghanistan you'll find far more than tanks and machine guns.
"A whole lot more dangerous; these guys have got a lot to face over there," says WWII Veteran Newburn Snellgrove " they've got more sophisticated weapons too ya know.”
“Now a days our most biggest problem is the I.E.D.,” says Iraq Veteran Billy Walls.
The US military is advancing technology each day to fight this new type of enemy.
“They've got some weapons that are so accurate it's unbelievable and I hate to see our guys now a days coming back all missing limbs and stuff like that, it's awful but maybe one day it'll be over,” says WWII Veteran John Little.
A veteran from Afghanistan also told us the shorter tours overseas make a big difference when it comes to morale
“During WW2 and Korea they were there for the duration. The American soldiers now at the most are 12 to 13 month rotations. Sometimes a little more but very seldom,” says Afghanistan Veteran Steven Cole.
And many of the older vets didn't exactly choose the military as a way of life.
“Back then it was the days of the draft, compulsory military service. The difference now is they're all volunteers,” says WWII Veteran John Little.
“I remember when the draft went away and it was the early 70’s and it became an all volunteer force in theory, truly today it is an all volunteer force so I tip my hat to 'em because they don't have to be there,” says Vietnam Veteran Lee Tucker.
But how does the draft being gone change the demographic of men and women serving in the Middle East?
“I know they've made it a lot smaller, almost too small. They don't have enough man power. That's the biggest thing I saw. There's too much dependability on the reserves. They are that, they are the reserves. They're not the regular force,” says Korea and Vietnam Veteran James Hunter.
“Vietnam it was just the regular army for the most part. Now it's the hometown guard units and reserve units and that really affects the community,” says Afghanistan Veteran Steven Cole.
Tuesday, we'll hear from veterans about what returning home from each major conflict was like.
You may be surprised by some of the stories these American heroes have to tell.