I entered the US Military Academy on 3 July 1967 and was separated from
the Corps on 11 June 1968, after having been admitted to UCLA. I still
have a hard time explaining why I left, and it remains one of two
significant regrets in my life. It seemed like a good idea at the time,
but I was too young and impulsive to be making good
decisions. Above all, I was homesick for Susi Knight.
I started UCLA in the fall of 1969 and filed for a student deferment.
The next year was one of great confusion on my part. All of my friends
from high school who didn’t go to college were getting drafted. All of
my surfer buddies were trying to get out of going. But having just left
the Academy, I still had mixed emotions about the war. On a campus like
UCLA, (which George Putnam, a local newscaster , called "the little red
school house" with reference to red as in commies and anyone on the
left and against the war) there was not a lot of support for the war.
On the contrary, most of the faculty and students were strongly against
My second year at UCLA, if I remember correctly, was the first year of
the lottery. When my number, 319 (I remember it to this day) was
selected (I was born in ’49 and eligible the first round) I was so
relieved that I was not going to be faced with any more decisions about
My life continued on like there was no more war. I graduated with my BA
in 1971 and moved on with my life. I was lucky. I still think of those who died in the war,
particularly those from West Point. There was a memorial in Thayer Hall
at West Point that had the pictures of all of the West Pointers who had
died in Vietnam. It was updated frequently during the 1967-1968 school
year. We walked past it every day on the way to class, and it was a striking reminder of the war’s toll on some of the best
and brightest in our nation.
Much like the feelings many people have about Iraq, I found myself
hating the Viet Nam War and supporting the troops. The politicians used
the military, just as in Iraq, to accomplish selfish political goals at
the expense of American boys and girls.