I was a junior at UCLA and had a high lottery number (in the 300s), but one of my brothers got a lottery number under 20. I think it was 13. I was against the war, like most of my friends. The riots on campus and all over politicized the campus. Students, faculty, parents–everybody began to question the war. I was one of them and I actively opposed the war.
I grew up in a working class neighborhood and several friends got drafted or volunteered. One was killed when his boat landed and was hit by a grenade. Another came back a paraplegic. He had been a star athlete in high school and ended up killing himself. A very good friend of mine came back with a plate in his forehead, where he was hit by shrapnel.
Neither I nor my brothers got drafted. I was torn. We all were. I didn’t know what I would do, if I did get drafted. Sometimes, I thought about taking off to Canada or Mexico, but I was pretty sure I would have gone off to Vietnam, if I was drafted.
My family is Latino and most of the family worked in the defense industry. My older cousins were in the military, my dad worked for the Navy and had been in the army. My uncle was a drill instructor. So, the chances of us not going in was pretty slim. When I was in high school, I worked as a machinist for two summers in one of the aircraft plants. We worked on the C-5A transport carrier. There was a terrible accident and a young guy my age was killed, several people were injured. I got hit by a piece of metal, but was OK. The explosion was like an earthquake and I ended up on the floor with my machine right next to my head.
That incident made me even more determined to go to college. I was the first in my family (including many first and second cousins) to go to college. So, I worked hard to graduate. I worked 20 hours a week, sometimes 30 while taking a full-load. But, I graduated with honors. I’m glad I didn’t have to make the tough decision about Vietnam. Even so, we were all touched by it. All of us lost friends.
On the other hand, I made many friends during that time, some of whom I met as a result of the demonstrations and political activity. I met the woman whom I eventually married, as a result of the bus trip to hear Bobby Kennedy speak. Sadly, that was the night he was killed. But, we bonded, fell in love, and had two incredible children.