My lottery number was low, and I was disappointed that the draft would remain an issue for me. I wasn’t worried, however, because I was in a course of study that would lead to a teaching career. If I could find a job, I would be eligible for an occupational deferment.
In late winter 1970, I sent a number of applications to school districts in the Northeast where I hoped to live after graduation (I grew up in Tennessee). I got some interviews and spent spring vacation visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Connecticut and talking to school officials. When a district in New York offered me a position, I was ecstatic. I would be teaching high school history, not killing and dying in Vietnam.
For reasons that I suspect were political, President Nixon chose that moment to issue an executive order ending occupational deferments for teachers. The district that had offered me a contract withdrew the offer because my lottery number virtually insured that I would be unavailable for the fall term. I am fortunate that my father was a minister, and I managed to secure conscientious objector status. I was drafted and spent two years working in a hospital emergency room in New Haven. I completed my service in two years but couldn’t find a teaching job and drifted into a business career. After twenty five years in business, I was finally able to go back to school, resuscitate my teaching certificate, and find a job teaching world history to ninth graders.
The lottery and Vietnam era politics delayed my teaching career for more than a quarter of a century. It is easy to keep that in perspective; my college career was punctuated by letters from home with newspaper clippings about friends from high school who went to Vietnam and didn’t come home.