John and I met in a summer school class at UK during the summer of 1969. John was finishing his studies at UK and had been accepted into the Peace Corps program. Although John was scheduled to leave for his Peace Corps assignment in Liberia, we began a very intense relationship. John was brilliant, charismatic–and a pacifist. Although his Dad and uncles had served in active combat during WWII, John had very strong views against the practice of war. However, he believed just as strongly that he had an obligation to serve his country in a non-military capacity.
As a result of politics, the Liberian Government then cancelled their Peace Corps Program, and John was not offered another assignment. His draft status returned to I-A. John immediately accepted a position working as a counselor at Kentucky Village, a residential treatment program for delinquent youth located outside of Lexington. As I recall John and I were at a UK basketball game at Memorial Coliseum when we learned that his draft number was low enough to mean he would likely be drafted.
John and I married in May of 1970 and shortly thereafter, John received notice to appear before his draft board in Islip NY to review his I-A draft status. In the meantime, John had applied for conscientious objector status and passed his draft physical. John labored intensely over the wording of his anticipated statement to the draft board. While he did not object to serving his country, his convictions were firm that the Viet Nam war was illegal and immoral.
John’s feelings were compounded by the fact that his lifetime best friend, Joe, had been killed in Viet Nam during the fall of 1968. We later visited Joe’s mother in New York, and she begged John not to go to Viet Nam. She felt that her son’s life had been lost in vain. That heartbreaking scene of a mother’s grief stayed with John and I throughout our lives.
In short, John was granted a deferment by his draft board with the stipulation that he continue his work with delinquent youth for at least two years. As a result, John not only met his obligation to the draft board but dedicated his life to working with juveniles in the Kentucky Juvenile Justice system. The pay was low and the work was often demanding and offered few tangible rewards. He was a early innovator in the Kentucky Group Home system and was a relentless advocate for troubled children.
John died of cancer in 2006.