I went to college at UNC in 1965 immediately following high school and thus was granted an education deferral until I approached graduation in 1969. In the spring of 1969, before I had even graduated, I was called to get a preinduction physical for the draft. I managed to delay that a couple of times. I then took the Armed Forces Qualification Test and signed up for Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) with the future assignment of being an aircraft navigator – didn’t have 20/20 vision, so couldn’t be a pilot. You couldn’t get into OTS unless you could qualify to fly. But my draft board was still trying to draft me, because I had to wait several months for a slot in OTS. Once I was within 90 days of going to OTS, I was sworn in to the Air Force delayed enlistment program. In spite of that, my draft board continued to try to draft me. I was able to stall them by moving to another city, and changing draft boards twice until I was finally on active duty in the Air Force. That occurred on December 8, 1969, only seven days after watching the lottery and learning that I had number 122. I completed OTS, then flight training, and combat training.
In May 1972 I deployed with my entire organization from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, NC to fly our B-52 bombers over Vietnam for the next 11 months. I flew about 1000 combat hours. During the really hard fighting, we lost about two B-52s per day. There were several flights where the surface-to-air missiles were so many and so close that we "knew we were dead." I lost several friends, but I lived through it. Many of us, including me, seriously doubted that the US should be in the war. A few crews refused to fly, when it got really dangerous. Almost all of us, however, felt that as long as we weren’t certain that the war effort was "wrong" that we should continue to fly – give the government the benefit of the doubt.
I am delighted to see that our military personnel are treated like heroes when they return from the current war – even though it is also unpopular. After the Vietnam War I often felt that many of our people took their anger about the war out on the returning military personnel. When my dad returned after WWII, he couldn’t buy himself a drink; others treated him. It wasn’t that way after Vietnam.
By the way, after having joined essentially to avoid the draft, I chose to continue serving for 20 years. I now continue to serve the country by working as a civil servant for the Department of Navy. I sometimes think of the high salaries I could have made had I taken a different career path, but I’m happy, and I’ve made a lot of good friends along the way. I also returned home and married my high school sweetheart.