I listed 188 as my lottery number based on charts available online. But my hazy recollection from when I was 18 is a bit different from what I find online. According to online resources, my draft lottery would have been in 1971 for men born in 1952. But by 1971 I was already out of high school and in my second year of college. My memory of events was that my draft lottery occurred during my senior year in high school, 1969-70, and that my lottery number was 185, a number that was too high to be called up. At the time I was trying to decide if I should join ROTC at college as a way to avoid going to Vietnam. I chose not to join because, by my recall, I was no longer at risk of being called up. But according to online evidence I was still at risk. I may have conflated in my memory the first lottery (1969, when I was still a HS senior) with the one in 1971 and my earlier decision no to join ROTC. I do recall also not wanting to join NROTC because of the heightened anti-war movement, especially on college campuses, and the thought of parading around campus in uniform was unsettling. So, even though my memory says otherwise, I was still at risk of being drafted as a college sophomore. My dad (who died in 1969 when I was just 17) was supportive of my efforts to avoid Vietnam by applying to the Naval Academy or NROTC. We reasoned that the war would not likely last past 1974, by which time I would have graduated and been obligated to serve. The downside being I would then be committed to a minimum 4(?) years service as a commissioned officer.
I first visited Vietnam in 2012, some 40 years after I might have served and died there had my lottery number come up differently. It was an eerie feeling to arrive there and contemplate how much my fate was left to chance, and how somebody else went to war there in my place. I have also meditated on that when I visited the Vietnam War Memorial in DC. I give thanks to God for my good fortune, but also have remorse for those who lost life or limb there in my place. And being in Vietnam also helped me appreciate the sacrifices of Vietnamese who list their lives in that conflict. When we honor American war dead I feel we are remiss to not also honor those who died on the other side of the conflict.