Throughout all four years of my baccalaureate education from 1965 to 1969 my male classmates who were not able to keep their grades up were being drafted out of school. Some of them tried to get the girl students to get lower grades so that their grades would look better. I don’t think this ever worked.
I got married in 1968, but the marriage deferment for the draft ended in 1967. In June of 1969 I received my B.S. degree in chemistry and mathematics from Central Michigan University. On Saturday morning, the day of commencement, I received two letters in the mail from my draft board. One of the letters reclassified my draft status from II-S to I-A. The other letter ordered me to report for a draft physical examination. I had already applied to and been accepted into the masters degree program in biochemistry at the University of Georgia, but draft deferment for graduate school had ended in 1968. So I started appealing my draft status the following Monday. Because I was already enrolled in a program of study my induction was delayed until that academic year was finished.
In August 1969 my wife and I moved to Athens, GA and I started graduate school. During that academic year I tried every appeal process available in the draft system, all of which failed. In December 1969 the draft lottery was initiated. I was already drafted so it wouldn’t have made any difference any way, but my number came up 47. This seemed to be telling me that the military was destined to be a part of my future.
In June 1970 my wife and I went back to Michigan to visit family and friends, and to find out what my current draft status was. I went to my local draft board office and inquired about my status. The ladies there searched and searched for my file and could not find it. Finally, one of them suggested that they should look in the pile for which induction notices had just been mailed out. My file was there–my induction notice was in the mail. I walked down the hall to the Air Force recruiter and enlisted for 4 years in the Air Force. I figured I would have a better chance of not being shot at in the Air Force.
The Air Force offered a delayed enlistment, which gave me until August 1970 before I had to enter. I went back to Georgia and completed enough work to convince my advisor and my committee that I was ready to write my masters thesis. I wrote my masters thesis in basic training at San Antonio, TX, got it edited and corrected during electrician technical school at Chanute AFB in Rantoul, IL, and then got leave from my permanent duty station at Pope AFB in Spring Lake, NC. in the spring of 1971 to go Athens, GA to defend my thesis and receive my masters degree in biochemistry. I was in residence for 11 months in the masters program, which I believe to this day is still a department record for the least amount of time required to complete a masters degree. I was being pushed hard by the draft to get the degree done.
After 2 years on active duty the Vietnam war was coming to an end and the Air Force was trying to reduce the number of active duty personnel while at the same time trying to build up the number of active reservists. They offered a program where I could trade my remaining enlistment time for double that time in the active reserves. I applied and received orders for a four year enlistment in the active Air Force reserves at Charleston AFB in Charleston, SC. These orders came one day before a different set of orders came for a two year isolated tour of active duty at a weather station in Iceland. Fortunately, the reserve orders took precedence because they came first. During my reserve duty I advanced to the rank of staff sergeant. I also went back to graduate school at UGA and completed my Ph.D. degree in biochemistry just about when my reserve enlistment was coming to an end, in 1976. I am presently professor of pharmacology at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy in Oxford, MS.
Did this change my life? Yes and no. It delayed my progress through my education somewhat, but it gave me veteran status, and I learned some skills I would not have otherwise. Over the ensuing years I have used my electrician training to wire two houses and a building. I am also pretty good at repairing electrical devices.