My story actually begins in the fall of 1965. After graduating high school in 1964 and attending UK School of Architecture for one year, not applying myself at school, flunking out, then sitting out the fall semester of 1965, I was then drafted into military service and went for my physical in Louisville in December 1965. At that point I was so immature and naive about life that I reconciled myself to being drafted. I was to be inducted on January 15, 1966. Thank God that my mother had the maternal instinct to force me to re-apply to colleges and re-enroll. At that point in my life, I just did not have the overall comprehension of what the Vietnam war really meant. Luckily, I got back in college and began classes on Jan 13, just two days ahead of my military induction date. I was then granted a college deferment.
All went well until the night of December 1, 1969. Even at that point, I don’t think I truly understood the full impact of what was happening, but I have NEVER forgotten the memory of that night, watching the lottery on TV from my apartment off Russell Cave Pike in Lexington, with my wife and dog.
The most vivid memory that I retain from that night was that a random drawing MAY DETERMINE MY LIFE. I will also never forget the emotional and physical feelings going through my body as the numbers were read. I made it through the first 100 numbers, but could still not find relief in my thoughts. After about two-thirds of the numbers had been drawn, I actually turned off the TV. I realized that I would have one of the higher numbers, but at that point, I really didn’t care any more. It was not that I felt secure, but rather just not caring any more.
I didn’t know my number until the next morning when I read it in the local newspaper. There were three columns, and I found my birthday (Oct 1) in the last column with a number of 359. At that point, as I began to more fully realize what had just happened, relief came over me. But at the same time, my thoughts were for all the other men with lower numbers.
I can only fully appreciate that experience in looking back with a more mature perspective. I truly believe that had I gone to Vietnam I would have died. I would have been just one more name added to the 58,250 men and women who gave their lives to a war that has no more meaning now than it did back then. Now I can really grasp the larger picture, that my Higher Power had something in store for me, that my current feelings and thoughts have been important enough to allow me to live.
The only repercussion to this story is the eternal guilt that I must carry for not having done my part, for not serving, for taking the easier way out. And knowing that so many friends and family did serve, not all returning alive.
Someone watches over me, even today.