SALT LAKE CITY -- The whole state grieved when Utah buried its first casualty of the Persian Gulf War, 22-year-old Marine Lance Corporal Dion Stephenson. At the memorial Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, Dion's brother and fellow-Marine, Shaun, who had accompanied the body back from the war zone where both had been serving, stood erect in his dress blues and said, "He was my brother and my best friend. . . . We looked out for each other and stood by each other. . . . He was a lover of life with a heart of gold."

After the service at the crowded, flag-lined cathedral, the cortege went past the state capitol, where Gov. Norman Bangerter and members of the legislature came out on the steps to pay tribute. At the cemetery in Bountiful, where the Stephensons live, cameras caught the youngest of the children, 10-year-old Mike, clasping his brother Shaun's white-gloved hand as they walked behind Dion's coffin.

And they focused on the faces of his father, a Marine veteran of Vietnam, and his mother, as they accepted, with heads bent, the folded flag which had covered his coffin, from Marine Corps Commandant Alfred M. Gray Jr. Gen. Gray whispered a few words, and a lone bagpiper played the Marine Hymn.

A few hours after the whole state had joined vicariously in this wrenching ceremony, John Wunderli of Salt Lake City, the student body president at the University of Utah, answered a visiting reporter's question about what he thought this war meant to people his -- and Dion Stephenson's -- age.

"My generation," he said after a long pause, "has not had to deal with war. We were very idealistic, but now we're hit in the face with the reality that we've failed. . . . Any time you resolve a conflict by war -- that's not the best way. It will make some of us more introspective, some of us more cynical. For myself, it makes me do some soul-searching."

Around the circle of nine students -- five of them from Utah, others from upstate New York, Alaska and Malaysia -- heads nodded in agreement. And the conversation, whose richness cannot be captured at all adequately in this space, convinced me that in ways they are just beginning to feel and express, this war is transforming Dion Stephenson's contemporaries.

Mark Dicosola of Orchard Park, N.Y., a design major, said it most directly. "Until now, we never had war. We had fun. Our culture tells us we have to be the top nation, but it doesn't prepare us for the costs. But now, it seems like my life has to matter a little more, because other people are dying . . . for me to stay here."

Kurt Kendell, a chemistry major from Bountiful who has served as a Mormon missionary in Indonesia, said he thought that success in this war meant something "more than peace and what the government says about liberating Kuwait. We have to come out of this with a better understanding of world cultures -- and a greater acceptance of the differences. This conflict did not just pop up in 1991. The problem goes back decades. Iraq is using equipment and tactics they got from us and our friends."

Few in the group argued explicitly that the war is wrong or unjust. But many said that its antecedents and consequences remain too little examined. "I can see how the United States might feel threatened by Saddam Hussein," said Debbie Hannan, a history major from Salt Lake City. "But I hope we're really careful. There are so many problems we don't really understand in that part of the world."

Adnan Hussein, a graduate student in mass communications from Malaysia, said he agreed. "Achieving the goals set forth by the United Nations may not be too tough, but it doesn't mean anything just to put the emir of Kuwait back on his throne. There's still the question of the stability of the whole region -- of who will contain Syria and how to deal with Iran."

Appropriately enough, it was another young man from Bountiful, chemistry major Todd Allen, who perhaps best expressed the complex of thoughts this war has stirred in his generation. "I'm very ambivalent," he said. "When I watched the Senate debate {on approving the use of force}, it made me joyous -- it was so nonpolitical and sincere. But when it came down to the decision, something inside me froze. What a horrible decision to have to make."

At another point, he said: "This is our war now, and we all support it. But there are so many wars. There's a war in China, where they're putting students on trial for expressing their beliefs. There's a war in the Soviet Union, where people are striving for independence and democracy. There's a war on crime and a war on drugs -- and people are dying of that right here. We have to decide which wars to fight. Where are we really needed?"

That is the question which will linger -- perhaps as long as the grief over Dion Stephenson.