I grew up in Asheville, NC, and by the time the lottery began, a number of friends and acquaintances from the mountains had died in Vietnam. My father had been in the Service in WW II in the 1st Marine Division in the Pacific. He was adamantly opposed to any of his three sons being in a war and said he would support us if we felt we had to leave the country.

I was not so much opposed to all wars but rather to that one in particular by 1968, but since I was in school did not have to decide anything.  When news of the impending lottery arrived, I did visit my draft board in Asheville to find out if I could submit some medical records for a deferment since I had by this time suffered a severe skull fracture resulting in one side of my skull being replaced with plastic. The draft board person, an unfriendly older woman, told me the only way to find out was to volunteer and sign up then see if I passed the physical exam. That sounded like a substantial risk so I returned to Duke where I worried a lot, mostly because I was having trouble in several courses and my draft board immediately took anyone who was forced to leave school. When the numbers were assigned (we watched it on television in the Fraternity House), my number was a high one. My goal then was to graduate from Duke and get on to graduate school, which I did with a series of deferments.

As the years went on, more and more of my acquaintances spent time in Vietnam. Some came back changed. Some did not come back at all.  Several of us wrote letters to wives and girlfriends when we heard bad news. It was a sad time.

Recently, I had a son serve in Iraq, and I have another son and daughter-in-law, both officers in the Navy, with the son serving in the Mideast several times and soon to go again.  I worried incessantly about the son in Iraq since his unit–National Guard from North Dakota–seemed so ill-prepared for what they were doing. Several members of his unit were killed.  I do not worry as much about my other son because he made a choice to serve via the Naval Academy and flies a helicopter with a lot of defensive weaponry and my daughter-in-law is a lawyer stateside. Regardless, recent years have showed me firsthand what my Mother went through in the 1940s as she waited for my Dad to return.

My best friend is a Vietnam veteran who only recently has been able to speak about his experiences.  My goal has been to listen and help him come to grips with some very bad things he saw happen and had happen to him and others. I am happy about how things have gone so far with my family and my friend, but I can still see the faces of those from the Vietnam era that are no longer with us.