I do recall the draft lottery. It is one of those things that stays with you, especially if your number was low. Mine was 116, too low to chance getting drafted in 1971 following graduation.
The day of the lottery, I was in Greensboro watching a Duke basketball game. Upon returning to the campus and the Sigma Nu house where I lived, there was a poster on the wall listing everyone’s numbers. The poster had a skull and crossbones drawn on it–sometimes through the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, dark humor was the only humor.
My feelings were sort of mixed, to say the least. One thing that struck me was that most of my more radical acquaintances had very high numbers. A good pal who really liked cough syrup–and probably could have used some discipline in his life–was 360.
Well before 1970, though, I had come to understand that no one should have been fighting in Vietnam. No one needed discipline so much as to have to risk life and limb fighting the communist scourge. (One exception, however, would have been Jesse Helms or anyone who bought into his way of thinking, which we heard nightly on his TV news commentary).
Anyway, upon graduating, Congress and Nixon got into a pissing match of some sort, resulting in the draft being suspended for some months. With my being on the cusp, so to speak, I did begin investigating my military options.
–Getting drafted at that time meant two years in the Army, with a pretty good chance of being sent to Vietnam.
–The National Guard was booked out.
–The Navy was not looking for officers, and I couldn’t imagine being a sailor.
–The Marines were looking for officers, and they told me I would look good in their uniform. Of course, the life span of raw Marine officers at that time was somewhat short. All I could imagine was my looking good in a uniform while lying in a coffin.
Sometime in late summer, I knew I had to do something. First, I advised the University of Connecticut that I would not be coming to law school in the fall–my deferment, of course, was up. Then something magical happened. I was in Red Bank, New Jersey and stopped in to see an Army recruiter. What was "magical" about this, while I didn’t know it at the time, was that the guy I met was one of the few really sharp, honest recruiters in the entire U.S. military.
The guy knew I didn’t want to die in my country’s service in Vietnam. He steered me to an MOS that would guarantee I wouldn’t go to Vietnam, and would possibly ensure my military service would be in civilian clothing, following training. The downside was that by volunteering for the Army, I would have to spend three years in the military. Of course, I would also have to tell all my friends that I had volunteered. Being in the Army at that time proved to be pretty brutal, especially when one showed up with no hair at a gathering of young, liberal-thinking people. It proved tough at times to get a date.
The additional year, I figured, was a worthwhile sacrifice, so I signed up to be an Army Counterintelligence Agent. It was a great title, but ultimately a rather lackluster job. After training, though, I wound up in Germany working in the U.S. Consulate in Dusseldorf, in civilian clothing and able to speak German thanks to eight months of language school. The language thing was sort of ironic as I had to go to summer school to complete the foreign language requirement at Duke.
Cutting to the chase, I never went back to law school and I spotted most of my peers three years in finding a career. I never really lost much sleep over either. My greatest regret, then and now, is the waste and shame of pursuing wars that cost this country so much.