Even though I got a relatively high number in the draft, I was still nervous about the impending pre-induction physical. When I went in to Fort Hamilton (in Brooklyn) for my "reguired by law pre-induction physical," all I could think about was, "How the hell am I going to get out of this?"
Should I lie and tell them that I was: 1. gay; 2. insane; or 3. a drug user? Or should I fail the written test so they’ll think I’m an imbecile not worthy of going to die in Vietnam? Or maybe I could simply tell them I was a convert to Buddhism and wanted nothing to do with an American war? Or maybe I could cough up a wad of mucus, possibly busting a testicle in the process, as they ask me to look to the right and cough? Does one go to war with one testicle….?
I was desperate and obsessed with finding a way out.
I was always against the Vietnam conflict. I marched against the war when I was 15. I marched because I believed it was an illegal military action, like the recent Iraq and current Afghanistan conflicts for which we had no real reason to be involved. I was never angry or against our military, but I was confused and unhappy with government leadership (very similar to how the majority feels in our current situation).
I was in the march down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. I also demonstrated at the big ones where Peter, Paul and Mary performed. I was one of those spectators represented in the huge Washington anti-war demonstration visited by Forrest in the film "Forrest Gump." I didn’t believe in the war, did not want to go to war….. I was in conflict with the possibility of me handling a gun to kill people in a foreign country.
I passed. I passed that damn pre-induction physical! I should have told them I was gay or crazy, damn it!
I couldn’t make up my mind about how to handle the intelligence evaluation. Should I be dishonest and answer the questions incorrectly or what? Being the imbecile that I was, I changed my mind about trying to look like an imbecile half way through the test. There was a time limit for the test and I ran out of time! I was unable to go back and correct my intentional errors, but still passed with a mediocre score.
Oh, my God. I am going to Saigon!
I am unable to see out of my left eye and wear glasses, and yet, I still passed the pre-induction physical. On top of that I did my best to demonstrate a pretty negative attitude ….especially when standing in line, naked for the hernia test. (I actually couldn’t get that negative as the soldiers administering the exam were pretty good guys…. they knew….).
I was classified I-A as able and ready to go to Saigon, or wherever they were sending draftees to kill Asians. I was depressed, and I was worried.
I spent the next few months watching, with great anxiety, as the numbers were inducted. When they reached 125 I talked it over with family and friends and decided that if inducted I would give up everything and run away to Canada. I was lucky. They never reached 212. Luck of the draw, I guess.