I was in the process of completing my Junior year at UCLA and was returning for dinner at my fraternity house from my part-time job while the lottery was in process. When one of my fraternity brothers asked me when I was born (September 14th), he informed me that I had garnered the distinction of being selected first in this modern day draft lottery. At first, I thought it was the typical RF that one encounters in a ‘fraternal’ environment, but soon learned that was not the case and I actually was No. 1! Unfortunately I was born at 11:59 p.m. on the 14th, and so I was No. 1 by the narrowest margin of one minute. To this day I have no idea what the 15th of September represented in the draft.
In the weeks following, I explored various avenues of avoiding the draft: reading pamphlets issued by "Mothers for Peace"; learning that I might get out by developing high blood pressure through the ingestion of birth control pills; having a fraternity brother offer to "blow out my knee" by stomping on it; moving to Canada; and finally looking into the possibility of joining a reserve unit. Ultimately, I selected the last option and was a member of the California National Guard from December 1969 through November 1975.
I was subsequently assigned to go to basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the week after taking final exams at UCLA. Other than seeing a part of the country I had never before visited, I was dreading the notion of how different my life was going to be over the next few months.
On the night of the lottery, one of my fraternity brothers came running into the frat house shortly after the conclusion of the lottery and announced that he was No. 366 (accounting for leap year). It turns out Mr. 366 had a father who ran Veteran’s Administration hospitals and happened to be running the VA hospital in Columbia, SC, the home of Fort Jackson! Since Fort Jackson was an ‘open’ fort, soon after arrival we were required to mail our civilian clothes back home to ensure that we were fully indoctrinated into the military way of doing things. I sent my clothes to my frat brother’s family home instead, about two miles from the Fort. The first weekend on active duty I actually snuck off the base, re-acquainted myself with my civilian clothes and attended a party at the University of South Carolina.
I ended up spending the maximum time (6 weeks basic training; 18 weeks additional training as an Avionics Mechanic in Augusta, GA) on active duty. Others that I trained with went on to Viet Nam, some returning and some not. It still is a very sobering experience that I’m sure added some texture to my life. My biggest question is why, such a short time following the end of an unsuccessful war in Asia, civilians and politicians who lived through that experience would support our activities in Iraq?! For me, this is deja vu and whereas before, it was peers who lost their lives in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos, now it’s the children of peers who are losing their lives. I JUST DON’T GET IT!
[Ed. note: September 15 in the 1969 lottery was chosen at No. 113, still well below the "safe" position of No. 195.]