Older Vets to Post-9/11 Vets: 'We had it harder.' Did They?

The war stories from his grandfather, though sparse in detail, blended one moment of explosive drama with a vague reference of death -- all wrapped around a description of how old-school military men used to handle both experiences.

David Weidman, who spent two tours in Afghanistan with the Air Force, recalls his late grandfather, a veteran of World War II and Korea, telling him that he survived having his body and his Jeep blown through a wall. He did not reveal to Weidman where that attack happened. He also gave his grandson some advice: "You don't want to be in a foxhole talking to a guy one minute and then you turn around and he's dead. You just don't want to experience that."

"He said he just dealt with it all. It's that same mentality: 'I did what I had to do. I got myself better then I went back to work.' Other than that, he never spoke about the wars at all. That tells me he never did deal with it," added Weidman, 32.

Cultural fault lines clearly run between generations of veterans who saw action in different conflicts or who wore the uniform in different eras, including peacetime. The refrain echoed by some older veterans to some younger ex-service members: "We had it so much harder than today's military."

It is, quite likely, a tradition that hearkens back to the Civil War or possibly the Revolutionary War, according to some ex-service members. But many post-9/11 veterans who have chatted with older veterans revealed the sentiment they've often heard carry the same note: "We just came home, put our heads down and got to work -- without any whining."

Buried, not so subtly, in that message is that the current crop is a tad less tough and lot more needy. Some of that cultural gap may have to do with how aging veterans were taught not to talk about combat stress whereas today's military members are constantly urged to open up about any symptoms of anxiety they're feeling. It's a battle of Macho circa 1945 or 1970 versus Macho 2012. 

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