It’s been a lifelong feeling of guilt and good fortune. On that night in 1969 I camped out by the TV waiting for my number to come up. I fell asleep waiting. I woke up to a ringing phone and my sister congratulating me on pulling number 325. I drove to the campus TV station where I was working so I could verify my good luck on the AP wire machine. There it was: I would escape the tragedy, trauma, disability, rage and heartbreak that others had, and are still having, to endure.

It’s never been enough for me to rationalize that those who went had a moral responsibility not to. There were and are too many pressures and lures to “serve one’s country” for the choice to be truly free. The lottery freed me from that choice, from the calculations of a flight to Canada or moving my draft registration to San Francisco where, it was said, judges were going easy on draft dodgers and the trial backlog was so long it might have been months or years before my case came up. The Vietnam war was a bad idea from which we’ve learned little: the Iraq lunacy was started by someone who was as intent as I on staying out of Southeast Asia. I have always had a special feeling for those who went—right or wrong. There but for the grace of God—and the lottery.