The lottery was pretty scary on the campus of the University of Kansas, and a lot of the fear of getting a low draft number was masked by gallows humor. One fraternity had a "you bet your life" drawing. Each member put in $5.00 and the one with the lowest number won the pot. One friend, fearing a low number, joined the Navy for a longer enlistment in the hope that he would not see combat in the jungle. His eventual number was in the 300’s.
I had been in ROTC until I received a medical deferment (I-Y) in the spring of 1969. (I retested after graduation in 1970 and found that my deferring condition was now normal). I was convinced, however, that my medical condition was minor enough to be overlooked if I were drafted, and was happy when my number was in the mid-200’s. I would not have protested being drafted, but I wanted to go as an officer, not enlisted, and I really would have preferred the Air Force because of the technology training available.
That being said, it should be noted that from 1968-70 I went through a transformation in my outlook. I did come to believe that our involvement in Vietnam was wrong and I did attend some rally’s and participate in some protest marches. Partly because it was the right thing to do, and partly because it was rewarding to belong to movements as big as those surrounding the war and the voting age. Unlike many protesters who accosted soldiers and other servicemen both verbally and physically, I never blamed those who did the fighting. I grew up as an Army Brat and believed that soldiers were not political beings. They merely carried out the orders of their superiors and the politicians who got us into the war.
In the spring of 1970, after the Kent State incident, all classes for the remainder of the semester were cancelled and students were encouraged to participate in the political system to have their views aired and perhaps acted upon. I joined with about 30-50 students who chartered a bus and travelled to Washington, D.C. to speak with our elected representatives about the war. On the bus we studied each representative’s voting record on issues dealing with the war and were prepared with appropriate questions and commentary when we met with them in small groups. I’m not sure how effective we were, but I do know that we were not the only busload of students in D.C. that spring. I’d like to think that as a whole, we had some influence.
The draft lottery and the social turmoil surrounding the Vietnam War changed my life. I did not pursue a career in the military as I had planned for most of my life. Instead I wandered from job to job, always improving myself, but never really feeling satisfied with what I was doing. Eventually I found teaching and it was there that I was most happy with myself. Most of my career was teaching US History and I always spent a little extra time with my students when it came to the unrest of the 60’s, including a mock draft lottery.