In 1969 I was living in York House at Duke. In the spring I graduated from the certainty of classes into the uncertainty of the real world–the draft.
I had no strong political views, so in late June, to put an end to uncertainty, I dropped by the draft office to say hello to the clerk, a classmate of mine in high school. I was called up in August of 1969.
During induction, I was offered a 9 month course in VietNamese at the Defense Language Institute (DLI), with a discharge at the end of two years. It was more interesting than company clerk, no longer than the two year commitment of the draft, and did not involve the use of weapons, so I signed on.
During basic training I practiced tactical invisibility. While in combat training I was invited to apply for Officer Candidate School. I declined, my stance being that I would not take responsibility for others in this war. While in basic I read the LaCouture biography of Nguyen Tat Thanh (Nguyen Ai Quoc, Ho Chi Minh). From reading the book I came to the conclusion that the war in Vietnam was a mistake the Eisenhower administration had avoided in 1954. Later I read the FitzGerald book (Fire In The Lake), which confirmed my conclusion.
On the night of the 1969 draw the men in my class at DLI sat around the TV. None of us said much, as we had already made our choice and taken our chances. Several people with high numbers were clearly unhappy. Those who "won" the draw with low numbers (I was No. 005) kept it to ourselves.
Having served with a random selection of young men as draftees in 1969, I find it unconscionable the way those men were treated upon their return to the U.S. Happily, that has changed.