Vietnam conscription was
my negative reinforcement to remain in college, not drop out in my sophomore year
on account of indecision. When I graduated high school 1965 it was with honors and a
full scholarship to VMI (VA Military Institute) if I wanted it. Because of my
"stay of duty" in a military-oriented grade school and my exemplary
high school GPA, VMI wanted me to become one of them. Unfortunately, I was miserable in
such a structured setting as a child so as an adult I adamantly refused to
pursue their dream, opted for MU-Columbia since my extended family resided in
MO and I could afford the in-state student fees.
All throughout college
at MU I was keenly aware of Vietnam and what it might or might not portend.
Whenever I moved to new locations on campus or back to my mother’s state of
residence (she was in US Public Health Service as a medical officer and we moved every 3 years) I
never advised the draft board of my status. My deferment card and status found
me anyway. Over time I developed a survivor mentality awaiting my fate re the
lottery. It was known among the male student body attending MU that between the
2 metropolitan induction/internment centers, KC was more lenient than St Louis
and if you had to register wouldn’t it be nice if you went to the former versus
the latter. Luckily, Chariton County was in the jurisdiction of KC.
I stayed at MU 5 years
trying to outlast the war, eventually graduated from College of Agriculture
(pre-veterinary, 1 of annual 600 applicants for 40 openings) 1970 with a
lackluster GPA, useless diploma, no job prospects. I do give credit to all the
MU professors that thought I had potential during my 3 years on scholastic
probation. Collectively, they were a great group of people. Through their
encouragement I managed to get on the Dean’s list 3 times finally earning 2.01
GPA to graduate….would have joyfully dropped out 1967 account indecision
about major as well as life ambitions but didn’t dare. True, I may not have
known what I wanted to do but I did know where I didn’t want to go.
After graduation I
returned to NYC to help my mother settle my aunt’s estate. My mother was
stationed at the USPHS Hospital on Staten Island at the time but was
transferring (her request) to Seattle. Before I turned 21 I got a physical via
the USPHS since I was still a dependent. There I was able to obtain a
doctor’s letter re my mental and physical capabilities for draft board
exemption should I get inducted. Again, I never, ever advised the draft board
where I lived when off-campus but since the draft board elders knew my mother
my draft status card would always arrive on time without delay.
My deceased aunt left me
an inheritance. From those proceedings I bought a car and took a 3-month
odyssey across Canada starting with Halifax working west toward my new place of
residence (Seattle) trying to find myself. I did entertain migration north of
the 49th Parallel for a long time but I had zero skills that this country
wanted re acceptance as a landed immigrant so I didn’t take the initiative to
emigrate. Somewhere in western Ontario I got word I’d been drafted so would I
please make an appearance 3 weeks’ hence at the KC Induction Center. Bummer.
Three individuals made
an appearance at the Kansas City Induction Facility courtesy Chariton county,
MO monthly quota that weekend. One individual had a bad knee, another a heart
murmur, I had my Doctor’s letter. These guys failed. I would have passed easily
had it not been for the Doctor’s letter. I really thought the examiner would
read it, laugh, stamp my application as "Pass". Instead, after
reading the 3 paragraphs Dr. Sinaly typed on USPHS letterhead he looked at me
with grim face and said "Sorry, lad, you’re just not acceptable for this
man’s Army". Wow! (what the Doctor’s letter contained was a legitimate
exemption which could be validated using sperm count examination which a normal
Army physical would never discover).
I had a last free meal courtesy of the US Government, at a table with a high school kid who had just volunteered for the Marines. I have often wondered if the kid survived ‘Nam.