I am sure that many of my readers will recognize this date. It is part of history and one that I shared with three friends; Tim McGee, Bob Hundley and Phil Bristow. It was the first lottery for the Viet Nam war and birthdays were pulled one at a time, to determine your draft order for the following year. I believe it was at my house that we sat, drinking a few beers, as we watched our future determined and scared to death. We only knew that if our number for the 1970 draft was drawn, we had no choice but to go to Viet Nam.
Two of us drew low numbers right away Bob and Phil. Tim and I had numbers that were at the end of the spectrum. Mine was 236 and I will never forget that number until I die. I foolishly went 1-A in January of 1970, as the draft board stated we would only hit about 150 for the remainder of 1970. It turned out that one (can't remember if it was Bob or Phil) had a bad knee and one had bad eyesight so in the end none of the fearsome foursome had to go immediately.
Then President Johnson decided that we needed to escalate the war to actually have a definitive result. In his opinion this would no doubt help us win the war. This decision also helped him choose not to run for a second term and expedited his death. All it did in reality, was to escalate the action and aid in the maiming and killing of many more young men from our beloved country.
Numbers started being pulled that were supposed to be safe and young men were being ordered to their particular draft boards like crazy. It was torture to those with low numbers and it was a game of chance. Of course the hell didn't compare with the action many young men saw in Viet Nam and I do not mean by any form or fashion to belittle that aspect, as several of my friends and acquaintances served in the idiotic war.
As the months passed in 1970, the threshold increased day by day and I started looking into reserve activity. I figured that if it got close enough, I would enlist in the Air Force or Naval reserves. No way was I enlisting in the Army or Marine Corp reserves, as that was an automatic ticket to the battlefield. I also did not want to cross the border and live in Canada as a few of my friends did.
With about a month and two draws left (I think they pulled every two weeks, but it has been almost 42 years) my number got close and I was calling the draft board daily, to verify what number was being pulled. My 236 was all of a sudden not looking very good. I think, if I remember correctly, the last number pulled in 1970 was 221. Fifteen numbers from my pull number.
Call me chicken or unpatriotic, but I felt we had no business in this war and did not want to give my life for something that really had nothing to do with our country or the defense of it. If the war was a matter of defending our shores and population, it would have been a different matter altogether.
My uncle who was a Marine lifer went to Viet Nam his last year in the Corp and has not been the same since. He was on a 3-hole port-a-potty when a mortar wiped out the other two young men. This, I think effected him more than any other aspect of the war. He hardly talked about the event, but I knew down deep he was deeply bothered by his being saved and the other two losing their lives. I think he felt a sense of guilt that he survived the mortar, to some extent.
Friends that I lived with and survived would return and have horrendous nightmares. Waking up in the middle of the night and screaming at the top of their lungs was common behavior and one that I could not tolerate. I felt guilty and lucky at the same time. I turned to alcohol and other things to get my mind off the issue. Then I usually would have to move as I gained no sleep, debating my guilt and the fact that my roommate had served.
Being a conservative these days, I am sure that a great deal of readers will be surprised to know that I was totally against this war and every war we have fought since then. This was the second war in a row, that essentially resulted in a draw or we lost. We have not, regardless of any mantra, decisively won any war since World War II. Yet we continue to put our troops in harm's way and rationalize the reasons behind our endeavors.
Again, we hear saber rattling from the White House lately, over the Iran affair and the fact that they are building a nuclear bomb. I understand that we have interests in this arena and are dependant on the Middle East for some of our oil. My true dilemma is though, exactly how will President Obama spin it so that he can place the blame for going to war in Iran, on George W. Bush? Time will tell.