I graduated from Duke in June 1969. When I had entered as a freshman in 1965, I had the rather blase attitude that the war could not last another four years, and so I would not have to worry too much about the draft. Obviously, that strategy failed. As the date of my graduation, and the loss of my student deferment, crept closer, I began to try every tactic I could think of to avoid going to Vietnam. I attempted to get a teaching post, or some other draft-deferred job. I tried to qualify for a IV-F. I tried to get into the Reserves or National Guard. I tried to get into VISTA. Nothing worked.
Toward the end of October 1969 I received my notice to report for induction on November 20. I thought it was the final bitter irony that I would be inducted just a few days before the lottery would determine whether I was going to be at the front of the line. In the end, it made no difference at all. My birthday, Sept 6, came up seventh in the lottery. But by then I was in my third week of Basic Training at Fort Benning.
I was very lucky. I had a friend who was in position at the Pentagon to get me a desk job there. I went directly from Basic to a posting as a clerk-typist in the Enlisted Personnel Directorate. I thought I had it made, but it turned out that I couldn’t avoid the war, even with a 7-to-4 job in the Pentagon. Following the Kent State killlings on May 4 1970, I was assigned to riot duty in the streets of Washington. Rather than face the possibility of being ordered to fire on my fellow Americans, I left for Canada.
I now live in London, Ontario, having completed two graduate degrees at the University of Toronto. I have taught for the last fifteen years at the University of Western Ontario. After forty years living in Canada, I have become a proud Canadian, and would never leave — except for short vacations in the sun during the dreary winter months!
I respect the indvidual choices of every Vietnam-era vet, whatever they chose to do to cope with an insane situation. I mourn all those lost, and I honour those who fought and returned. Like them, I did what I thought was right.