I remember the feeling of coldness as I watched my same-age, senior-year, male best-friend suite mates celebrating their safe, high lottery numbers. Was this a turning point? It sure was. Medical school became the only remaining graduate field of study with draft deferment, so the first thing that happened was that my applications to medical school (I was premed) were shot out of the water–everybody and their brother was applying to medical school. It was thirteen years before I reapplied and went into the career I had planned originally. Meanwhile, I transtitioned to a graduate program at UCLA. I delayed the draft (with the help of some compassionate law students in the loft of a Santa Monica book store) with some entirely legal appeals. This gave me some time to figure out what I was going to do. I had the feeling that using me to fire an automatic rifle at unseen targets in dense jungle foliage was not going to be the best use of my talents.
And then did I get lucky! The military looks far ahead at emerging technologies. I just happened to be involved with one of those, and was discovered (as it were) by a Navy lab which was very interested in me. I was allowed to be a reservist to complete my graduate education. I then went on active duty in the U.S. Navy, and my time there was great. I got do to research. I value that time. I got out later to go to medical school but not before having become regular Navy and spending nearly nine years there.
I knew at the time of the lottery that I could not choose a path which was illegal or questionable in terms of patriotism, despite the fact that the war itself was a huge mistake. I have not remained close with those college friends. I have always felt closer to those who had low lottery numbers, who went to Vietnam, those who died there, men I never even knew, and to this day I have a special place in my heart for our veterans of the Vietnam conflict.