I was a sophomore at UNC Chapel Hill when the ‘69 draft lottery was held. Like many of my classmates, I’d made the transition from a clean-cut freshman from Winston-Salem to a long-haired war protester, complete with bellbottom jeans and a peace sign belt buckle. On draft night, I went to a basketball game with a couple of friends, then returned to Avery dorm where our Senior buddies were anxiously listening to the lottery on a clock radio. There were a lot of highs and lows that night. My friend Tom was high because he drew the upper 200s. I was low, getting an 85. Still, it was early times, and we all hoped the war would end before our numbers were called.
Fast forward to the spring of 1972. I’d graduated with a degree in History, Tom in English, and we both minored in the joys of hippiedom. The plan was to follow Kerouac’s blueprint and hitch around the country. However, the plan was interrupted by the notice I received for a pre-induction physical. I wasn’t too concerned, figured I’d either fail it or move to Canada, and besides, the Stones were playing that night in Charlotte – July 6, 1972. So I rode a military bus from Winston to Charlotte in the morning and passed all the tests – I thought about trying to fail the hearing exam, but the examiner said “don’t even think about it!” As my fellow potential inductees returned to Winston, I walked over to the Coliseum to see the Stones with some friends. The concert was great – always did love Mick Taylor’s guitar!
Tom and I hit the road (that’s another story) and wound up in Denver, working on a snowmobile assembly line. I was on the bumper crew with 3 other guys – salt of the earth factory kids. Things got nasty when my mom forwarded my induction notice. I talked to some guys – there were draft resistance counselors in all the liberal cities in those days – they convinced me not to get “*****” tattooed on my forehead (an idea I’d gotten from a book by Abbie Hoffman I believe) – and I decided to seek further knowledge in San Francisco, since it was permissible to report for induction anywhere in the US. Prior to leaving for the coast, I attempted to diet down to 123 pounds, which I had been told was my magic number for underweight rejection. I fainted in front of the fridge one night, at which point I decided to supplement my diet of one hard boiled egg a day with a little more nourishment.
I answered a newspaper add to drive a van to San Diego, then hitched up the coast to SF. I sought counseling immediately, was told that being a couple of pounds underweight wouldn’t get me out, and was given the name of a psychiatrist who would be sympathetic to my plight. I talked to him, and based on my state of mind and history of drug usage (nothing hard), he wrote a letter stating that I was unfit for service.
On the bus over to the induction center in Oakland I met several others with letters, as well as one courageous guy who was going to refuse to step forward when called. My letter got me a meeting with an Army shrink, who declared me IV-F. At the end of the day, we non-inductees returned to SF, where I called my folks, who were happy I wasn’t going, but aghast at the reasons for my rejection.
I spent a few days recovering, eating PB&J sandwiches all day, drinking half & half and watching a small tv, the rental of which cost more than my weekly rent at the flop house where I was staying. After getting my sea legs back, so to speak, I hitched to Winston. When I returned my folks were very glad to see me, since the draft board in Winston had called them on the date of my scheduled induction and asked them where I was. My parents related my Oakland rejection to them and it must have been cleared up because I never heard any more from the Selective Service, but it made a few anxious days for my parents, as I was out of touch while on the road.
Two years later I got a job with the federal government, the National Archives and Records Administration. I’ve worked there for 35 years, got married and had two kids. I’ve never regretted my actions in doing whatever was necessary to avoid that unnecessary war.