I dealt with the draft lottery of 1969. I had graduated from undergraduate school, a small, liberal arts school in Iowa named Wartburg College in spring ’67, and had planned to go to graduate school if I could get an assistantship, starting that fall. Student deferments had been regularly extended to those attending graduate school up until ’67, but were cancelled starting fall of ’67.
I investigated enlisting as a warrant officer serving as the music officer in a military unit. The catch was that I had to enlist before taking the test, and if I didn’t score well, I still would have been committed to the service and would have been put in the regular body of draftees. So instead I took a job teaching high school in McHenry Community High School in Illinois, intending to stay there sheltered from Viet Nam by an occupational deferment that was then offered to teachers. In ’68, I think, all occupational deferments were cancelled and those who had possessed one were to be placed in the ’69 lottery. So my immediate future was unclear. In a couple years, I’d be 26 and no longer eligible for the draft. Or I could be in khakis within a short period of time. Had I been drafted, I would have served. I had no intention to flee the country or do anything "stupid" to get out of my responsibility to serve.
When the numbers were released, I discovered my birthday, January 29, had been picked in 345th place. This meant there was absolutely no chance that I could be drafted. I applied for graduate schools, was admitted, and left McHenry, Illinois, behind to pursue further education at the University of Georgia, where, soon after my arrival, I met the woman who would become my wife and life partner. Since then I’ve pursued a career in higher education, and this spring, I’ll finish my 45th year of teaching and begin the new experience of retirement.
Having read some of the literature that came out of the Viet Nam war, I realize how fortunate I was to have lucked out with a high lottery number. My life would certainly have been very different, probably incredibly different, if I’d had to serve.