When the numbers were drawn and mine had two digits, it was obvious that I had one more factor to be managed as I emerged from college. My academic college experience fell short of superb–the discipline of advanced education did not connect with me until graduate school. Even as a freshman, a Viet Nam experience was a real possibility. I composed alternative lyrics to the Beatles’ "I’m Looking Through You":
I’m looking through it
What do I see?
And I don’t know how to do a one.
I’m not worried.
Viet Nam is fun.
Immediately after graduation I taught in Durham in a state-sponsored residential school for "emotionally disturbed" children. Kids had their issues but school administrators and families could match them with their own pathologies. We tried interventions. Great experience that came with a teacher’s deferment. I also took pre-req courses at Duke for graduate programs in Health Care Administration.
I went to Durham’s local Army Reserve to enroll in its Medical Service Corps. I took the aptitude test with other candidates and returned in a month for the results. Names and assignments were called out:
"Smith! 6 weeks basic, 6 weeks ambulance driving; Jones! 6 weeks basic, 6 weeks medical transcription; Fallat! Wow, Look at this one. 6 weeks basic, 9 months electronic equipment repair."
I shook my head with disbelief about the conflict between the desired 6 weeks training and the 9 month assignment. I looked around at my new buddies and they asked "Did you intend to answer the answers correctly?" I was a slow learner about military protocol from the grunt’s perspective.
I asked if the training could be worked around my graduate school interest. They smiled. I asked when the training would be scheduled so I could work my graduate school around the Reserve training. They smiled.
When I left teaching and went to Graduate School at George Washington, I received the draft physical call from my PA board. By this time the whole world was smarter about contesting the draft and the local Friends Society advised a strategy that included requesting a specialty medical exam for those with chronic illness. My chronic illness was severe foot fungus that had been under control for 12 years.
Little did I know that the treating dermatologist was a pacifist who wrote a physician opinion (complete with medical records documenting radiation therapy–in the 50’s when radiation would be used for many weird things) that while the fungus was under control now, there was a high probability that it could become disabling if I were placed in a hot, moist and stressful environment.
The Board chose to ignore my request for special exam (and thereby creating an opportunity for Appeal) and I joined the bus load of potential draftees. I was surprised at the number of potential inductees who were blowing weed in the back of the chartered bus. I was standing in front of the examining physician who noticed I was scratching scabs on my hands. He said it looked like I was continuing to have some sort of dermatitis and I nodded.
I received a I-Y deferment.
I tried again to enlist in US NAVY OCS for the education benefit and post-graduation experience but those slots were filled with people who had more contacts that I did.