In December 1969 I was a married, fourth-year graduate student in chemistry at the University of Kansas when I drew No. 11 in the draft lottery. I had successfully completed the requirements for a Ph.D. and was in the process of publishing my doctoral thesis. In that same month my student deferment expired, and I was classified I-A. With that classification and my low lottery number, I was highly likely to be drafted. Accordingly, I received instructions from my draft board to get a physical examination to evaluate my readiness.
My instructions were to make an appointment for the examination at the federal penitentiary at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. I appeared at the appointed time at the entrance to that institution and knocked at its massive steel doors. I was ushered in, shown where to go to register, and told to strip. With trepidation I entered a line with others, most of whom appeared to be older, tough-looking inmates, to see a doctor. He confirmed that I was indeed the only student he had seen that day. I passed the physical.
As my studies were drawing to a close, I had job interviews with several chemical companies. One was with American Cyanamid in Princeton, NJ. I gave a presentation that was well received, and interviews were encouraging. I will never forget, however, the reaction when I announced that my lottery number was 11. They did not know what to say. I returned to Kansas and never heard from them again.
I eventually accepted an offer from Dow Chemical in Midland, MI, a company that had no problem with my draft status. After weeks of anxiety, I started my Dow career March 3, 1970 and was placed in the laboratory dedicated to improving agricultural products. I did not know that Dow had applied for an industrial deferment for me. A few weeks later I heard that the deferment had been awarded for one year.
Later that year I turned 26. I learned from my draft board that no one 26 or older was being drafted. I was too old to serve. I also learned that I was among the last to receive an industrial deferment. The anxiety from months of not knowing if and when I would be drafted was over. I had two brothers, one who had a career with the USAF and one who was drafted into the US Army. Both served in the Vietnam War. I, too, was willing to serve if called by the draft, but the uncertainty had been unnerving. I went on to have a 31-year career in research with Dow.
My wife and I had two sons. The draft ended in 1973 as the military moved to an all-volunteer force. One of the great blessings of my life was never having to worry about our sons being drafted.