When the lottery was conducted December 1, 1969, I was preparing to report to Ft. Jackson after January 1 for my 3-year enlistment. I don’t recall watching the actual process, and may have just read it in the paper the next day since it didn’t matter for me. And neither did the fact that my number was 296. I had received my I-A classification by July 1, 1969, my notice for physical by August 1, and my draft notice by September 1. Then I had three choices: go to Canada, wait to be arrested, or enlist.
By then, so many people had enlisted in the Navy or Air Force to avoid the draft that the Army would no longer approve that, so I enlisted for 3 years in the Army. I was headed for Clerk School at Ft. Jackson, after basic training, following a 3-month delayed entry. I worked that grace period at a stereo equipment store in Charleston, SC, learning a lot and having a great time, fearing it just might be the last one I would have. Had I known that my 20/200 vision would keep me out of any combat area (like being told that by the recruiter, hohoho), I would have just taken my chances with the 2-year draft, and my life would have been completely different.
As it turned out, I was on convalescent leave following an appendectomy when my AIT class shipped out, and I didn’t go to Ft. Sam Houston to be a Medical Records Specialist. Instead, I was assigned to the Clerk School Office at Ft. Jackson as permanent party, and eventually was transferred to the Finance Office, where I audited pay records and then worked in the Disbursing Office. I spent my entire 2 years, 9 months, and 3 days, after my 6-month early-out was reduced to a 3-month, at Ft. Jackson, 110 miles from my home in Charleston. I met my future wife through a buddy in the Finance Office whose wife worked with her, worked nearly 30 years for Internal Revenue Service in Columbia SC using veteran preference, bought a house with a VA loan, and raised, with my wife, a fabulous son who thankfully was too old to have gone to Iraq if the draft had been reinstated. So I guess it was almost worth it. Almost.