I was attending the Duke-Virginia Tech basketball game on December 1, 1969 (in Greensboro, first game of the year) with two of my roommates, John N. and Ben P. Of the three of us, two had already committed to some form of military service. I had signed up for a two-year NROTC program and Ben for a Marine officer program. John was the only one at risk of a low number. We had a transistor radio at the game which we listened to for the lottery birthday choices. In a classic example of Murphy’s law, Ben and I, who were praying for a low number to justify our decisions, both got in the 300s. John of course was something like No. 22. Duke won in OT and we all went back to Durham and got drunk.
I lost touch with Ben but John and I remained best of friends until his untimely death in 2002. I ended up serving 2 1/2 years in the Navy, all on the East Coast so I managed to avoid SE Asia. John ended up teaching for a deferment. So the lottery changed his life but not mine. I looked into whether I could get out of my Navy obligation but it wasn’t possible. And I am glad because they proved to be really valuable years. And I learned that if your life plan is contingent upon the results of a lottery, get another plan.