The draft impacted the men of my generation in many, many ways, whether they were called or not. Some good, some bad, some enriching, some deadly. The fraud of avoiding being called would have scarred me no less than a bullet, so I did my duty and came out better for it, but not without life-shaping memories and experiences.
After my first quarter at the University of Georgia as a junior in 1969 I was on the Dean’s List. I got married during Spring Break. I wound up on academic probation the next quarter, and it was be drafted or go to summer school, which I did. The threat of the draft held that much power over decisions we made at that time.
The Lottery was held in December of that year and I got the number 90.
I received orders to report for a physical in May, 1970. There were
three bus loads of students taken from Athens to Atlanta for
physicals and testing. I did everything honestly, but a fellow with
a low number, who had lived across the hall from me at the Reed
Dormitory, managed to score about 25 on the intelligence test and was
waived from consideration. I was amazed at how many were rejected for various reasons.
Following the physical I was busy with school and a new marriage, and it really didn’t impact me so much until I graduated in August 1970. I made applications at thirty different places for work, but because of my number I was not considered employable in any type of permanent position. The only job I could find was as a plumber’s helper on campus in a building
that was being renovated. Meanwhile I continued school taking a night course during the fall of 1970.
We had been home over Thanksgiving weekend, and made the long drive back to Athens with a Siamese cat in heat, only to find my Greetings from President Nixon in the mail, ordering me to leave for duty from Swainsboro the following Monday, December 7.
We went home to Adrian for the weekend. How do you spend a pleasant
weekend at home, not knowing if you would ever see it or your family
again? I tried to take in all the places that had meant so much to
me. I wanted my wife near. A friend that came over told me if I
went to serve in Viet Nam he would never speak to me again. The
worst part was Monday morning. My entire family accompanied me to
the bus station in Swainsboro. The old lady processing me and
another boy said it was just her job. I wanted to ask if sending
young men to die was a good job, and couldn’t she find something else
to do, but I was too intimidated by the situation to say much. We
boarded the bus, and I waved to my family as we rolled out of the
station heading onto US 80, the same road that led toward home. My
family passed the bus on the way out of town, and stopped at the
junction before turning to go home. They all got out of the car, and
as the bus passed, my father, mother, brother, sister, and dear wife
bid me a goodbye wave. There has never been a sadder day in my life
than seeing them by the road telling me goodbye and honestly
wondering if I would ever see them again.
It is difficult to take two years from a young man’s life when he
has goals and plans. I served the minimum time to be able to get my
GI Benefits, then went on to finish a doctorate, came back to my home and made a difference in my community and profession. I probably could
not have done this had I not served. And after almost forty four
years, I am still married to the same lady who has given me two
wonderful children I can be proud of.