It was a stressful evening sitting in front of the television set on August 5, 1971 with my parents, brother, and sister. It was very quiet and the mood was somber, as my family worried about my fate. The horrible program looked more like a bingo game show than what it actually was; a possible two year sentence of slavery to the state during the Vietnam War. If chosen in this lottery, I was to be drafted into the Army. Irony at this dark level is like a macabre nightmare, especially for the young and naïve.
If my number were drawn early, I would be ordered to report for “duty” the following spring. We were huddled together with fingers crossed, anxious in hopes of being there until late in the night, but unfortunately we did not have to wait long. My number was drawn 2nd, and then there was silence.
The next few months were wrought with worry as a decision had to be made about my impending incarceration. My father told me at the outset that I should do what I felt was right, and live with my decision. He was very wise and always supportive, and this helped me gain confidence and courage. War is a Racket: The A... Best Price: $6.45 Buy New $3.79 (as of 03:45 EST - Details)
Mine is not a story of war and killing, or of valor in the face of great danger, it is one of personal rebellion. As I saw it at the time, I had three choices. I could go to Canada to escape the draft, I could simply refuse to go at all and face prison, or I could go into the Army and wreak as much havoc as possible. I had no money, contacts, or job in Canada, and prison for me was out of the question. So I chose to go into the Army, but with an attitude of complete indignation.
I did not waste any time. Within the first few minutes after arriving at the Memphis reception center, I stood and declared that I would never kill anyone in Vietnam. Everyone stopped what they were doing, and just stared at me. I was scared to death, but whether they thought I was serious, insincere, or just plain crazy my rant was quickly ignored. What a relief!
I already abhorred war, and understood the deceitful nature of the state, and as I soon discovered, this put me in the extreme minority. I was older than most there, 20 at the time, and had been taught by my father not to trust government, something for which I am forever grateful. So it was on to Fort Polk, Louisiana, the hellhole of the Army, for basic training. And yes, it was very unpleasant.
As seems to be my personality, I used any and all adversity to get stronger and educate myself about life and my surroundings. I found that helped me to stay focused on important matters. I met several honorable men, and of course some who could not wait to go to war to kill. This was only three years before the war ended, and troops were already being sent home, with fewer and fewer new recruits going to Vietnam. The risk was still evident, but not as much as it had been earlier.
I tried to cause as many problems as I could during basic training, with the knowledge that antagonizing drill sergeants in the Army is a very dangerous thing to do. I had my moments, especially considering one particular recruit who was mentally retarded in my estimation, and had no business being there. He was an innocent soul, but he was abused and intimidated constantly by not only a particular DI, but by several of his fellow soldiers. I took it upon myself to protect him as much as I could, a difficult chore to be sure, but he managed to get out mostly unscathed. I finished my time there with the highest shooting score in the company, and the second highest physical training score. As I learned later, this was not the best thing to do given that troops were still being sent to Vietnam.
What I did not realize at the time is that one of my drill sergeants was to become an angel on my shoulder. I was told I would get orders to go to Fort Benning, Georgia for Advanced Individual Training and then Army Airborne School. I know this sounds contradictory given my hatred of war, but the competition and training was what I sought. This could have turned out badly for me, but for the unknown caring of one drill sergeant. On the last day when I got my orders, they were for me to report after a two-week leave to a cushy stateside location and a job doing a “civilian acquired trade” that I had absolutely zero ability to do. This puzzled me.
I went to my drill sergeant and asked him what was going on, and he said he had my orders changed. He told me if I did go for advanced training at Benning, I would be sent to Vietnam, even though the war was winding down. He said there is no reason to die now. I think he had finally realized the real nature of war, even though he continued to train soldiers. He knew of my position on Vietnam, and also that I could be very dangerous if put in any situation where I had to choose whom to protect in war. It would always be the innocent, not the warmongers. He was much wiser than I had once thought, and I will never forget him for what he did for me. I still have his picture with my unit in my home, and I have never forgotten his name.
The rest is history as they say. I was sent to a misfit unit with only 52 personnel for the remaining time in the Army. After causing as much trouble as possible, including at one point pinning a sergeant between my forklift blades and threatening him, things seemed to come to a head. A captain who was tired of the war and military, and was leaving the Army within days, saved me that time, and I mellowed a bit after that. In today’s world, I would have been jailed on multiple occasions, but I must have been lucky. I was told to never come to any formation, or base inspections. I was given an assignment to pick up a truck in the morning, go to work off base, and had little contact with the higher-ranking members of my unit. I was mostly left alone until my time was over. There were some things I did that were unbelievable considering today’s standards, but I made it through unscathed, and with a much better understanding of the horrendous mindset of the military. Fool’s Errand: T... Best Price: $18.59 Buy New $19.99 (as of 05:00 EST - Details)
I have many stories to remember, too many to mention here, and they give me much entertainment, but I would never choose to do it over. Conscription is slavery, and should never raise its ugly head again! Slavery by any name is an assault on mankind, and there is no place for such heinous behavior by any civilized people.
Some might think my trouble making and bad attitude was immature and not called for, but as far as I was concerned, being held against my will due to being conscripted by the state gave me every right to cause harm. I did so and never regretted it once. I think those draftees around me who were too afraid to act on their real feelings appreciated my contempt. This was enough incentive for me to rebel against authority and enslavement by the military state, as I do not believe in either. More rebellion and less apathy would be a giant step forward today.