My lottery number was low enough for me to get a letter from the Draft Board to report for a physical. I was a student at NC State, married with one child and one on the way. I wasn’t particulary fond of being drafted but I wasn’t going to dodge my responsibility either. When my parents found out that I was to report for my physical, my mother decided to write to Senator Sam Ervin and petition him under the Sullivan Act to not allow me to be drafted.
My older brother had been shot down over North Vietnam in May of 1966. Initially he had been reported as MIA and thought to be a POW. In January of 1969 he was reclassified to killed in action but with no real proof. Later, in 1989, his remains were recovered and he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Within about 30 days of my mother’s letter to Senator Ervin, we received a reply that said I did not have to report for duty due to my brother’s status. It was with some mixed emotions that I did not serve – a wife, two children, pending graduation in 1970 but also with a brother who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country. All these weighed heavily for a number of years but not as heavily as those that were impacted by serving in Vietnam and returning home. I hope we never get ourselves into such a position ever again.[Ed. note: The Sullivan Act is not actually a law passed by Congress, but it refers to various policies of the different branches of the armed forces since WW II, regarding protecting family members of soldiers killed in action. That issue received great attention when the five Sullivan brothers from Iowa, serving on the same Navy ship at Guadalcanal in 1942, were all lost when their ship went down].