My story is short. I listened to the first lottery on the radio or TV in my dorm room (I can’t remember which). As the birth dates were called I wrote each one down in order. In the anxiety of the moment I was relieved as 295 other dates were announced before mine. Even so I continued to write down the remaining dates.
Being in the last third I began to selfishly think about what I needed to do to finish my degree and perhaps go on to grad school. I was a chemistry major not interested in politics or protests, just molecules and reactions. The war was political and it was half-way around the world.
Before long I faced the reality of what was happening head-on. Somehow the word got around that I had the list. My phone began to ring constantly and for several hours. Every caller wanted to know his number. I scanned my hand-written list for birthdays. I am still haunted by the deafening silence when I had to tell some nameless voice that he didn’t even make double digits. Sometimes the voice asked a second time in disbelief. Sometimes there was just a click.
This was a life-changing moment for me. Not that I was immediately transformed into a placard-carrying, anti-war-chanting protester; but over time not only have I become skeptical of government and its motives, but I have also developed a deep respect and gratitude (however inadequate it may be) for those who sacrificed on my behalf.
It’s been almost 40 years. I haven’t forgotten; I never will.