At the end of my freshman year in college I lost my II-S deferment due to poor grades. Never a hard working student, I was unprepared for the freedom of college life and lacked the self discipline to pursue education as a full time job. My grades in the fall had been lackluster but the spring saw them dive bomb into a smokey wreckage fueled by my extra curricular activities. I had been politically aware as a teen but certainly no activist though I cleaved to an alternative lifestyle through music, clothes, hairstyles and drug use. I have a sister some five years older who moved to Europe in 1968 and was fully engaged in the expatriate experience. Some of the blame must certainly fall on her. When she visited the states in the winter of 1971 she bestowed upon me a rectangle of the finest middle eastern hashish. It was about half the size of a deck of cards but potent enough to keep me and a few of my closest acquaintances out of our 8 and 9 AM classes the rest of the year. Spring exams were a charade.
I did better in school the following year and began to find some reward in scholarship but always kept up a brisk party life. In the late fall of 1971 I experienced a series of seizures. After a couple of visits to the neurologist I was deemed to have abnormally low blood pressure and was given a drug to make me more uppity and nervous. This condition was not unheard of in my age group and generally passed with time. I quit taking the prescription after a couple of months and never had another seizure. I started receiving letters from my local draft board in the spring of 1972 and was able to put off my induction physical until July. After a year of good grades and copious drug use I went to my hometown for the fateful appointment. I met several other lucky individuals at the bus station at 7 AM to board a charter for the hour long ride to Charlotte, N.C.
We spent the day filing out papers, taking tests, having our various orifices examined and being given the "opportunity" to join another branch of the service besides the Army. When asked if we had any pertinent documents that may affect our status I presented the medical records from my neurologist and went on my way. We finished the machinations of the day and were called by county to board our respective charter buses for the ride home. Each person was called by name to file out and given their basic training destination and induction instructions by the clerk on their way out. When my name was called I stepped up and there was a big DISQUALIFIED stamped on my file. My blood pressure was clinically too low to qualify for service. I did not look a gift horse in the eye and proceeded to walk out with perceptible spring in my step. It was a somber ride home for most and I tried to keep my jubilation internal until I arrived home.
My family and friends were all delighted with the outcome. I often wonder "what if" but I’ll never know. I personally have never known anyone who relished their days in Southeast Asia or came back a better person having gone through combat in an unpopular war. My father was a decorated serviceman from WW2 and told me the war stories he thought were fit to tell. He never glorified war in the least and never repeated a single story. My mother attested that he was troubled and emotionally scarred when returned from Europe. I think he may have been the happiest of all when I shared the good news.