The night of the 1969 draft lottery, I was a junior at the University of Georgia. I was a junior college transfer. We were gathered around the TV in the fraternity house. I thought I had missed my number as it was getting towards the end. I then heard my birthday and number. I let out a holler which was not appreciated as one of the brothers was number 2 and some others had low numbers. They all knew they weren’t coming back for the winter quarter. I finished up school in March 1972. Now the saga continues as my story is not the conventional type.
Despite my lottery number of 353, I joined the Marines in January 1972, reporting to Quantico, Virginia for Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in June of 1972. I served on active duty until August, 1975. I was in the Far East (3rd Marine Division) as a Tank Platoon Commander from March 1974 till July 1975. I participated in the Evacuation of Saigon as a security detachment commander.
While in Okinawa, (my home base), I received a package from my parents containing a letter from my draft board. I was advised that since I had graduated from college, my II-S deferment had been revoked, that I was now reclassified I-A, subject to the draft, and that I was to report to the pre-induction station at 401 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA, for a pre-induction physical. I promptly wrote a letter on the Battalion stationary stating that my current occupation negated my being drafted into the Army, but I was willing to show up for the physical in uniform (I was a 1st Lieutenant at the time) if they would send me the plane ticket and not charge me leave as it was "government business". I had my Battalion Commander sign the letter (he was laughing and told me there were easier ways to get off Okinawa) and sent the letter to the draft board along with a photograph of me outside my Company Headquarters building with the sign prominently displayed. I never heard back from the draft board.
I then served six years in tanks in the Marine Corps Reserve (Louisville, Kentucky) transferring to the Kentucky Army National Guard in 1981, serving in artillery as a Captain until 1985. My day job during that entire period was as a Lexington, Kentucky police officer. In 1985, the Army made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I left the force and went active duty again for 10 years. Part of that time (1988-1991), I was stationed in Panama doing engineer projects in Honduras, Bolivia, and Panama. During Operation Just Cause, I was the Chief of Police of the refugee camp. I was wounded in that conflict.
I thought I was retiring in 1995, so I assumed a professorship at Lake Superior State University that year. But the Army said no, so I went into the Army reserve and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. I retired from the military in 2000 with 28 1/2 years – 15 years active duty. I then moved to Virginia and become a defense analyst in Norfolk. In 2005, the Army recalled me out of retirement for one year because of the war in the Middle East. At age 56, I had to go thru a "refresher" boot camp at Fort Benning. I then went on to US Central Command, MacDill AFB, Tampa, FL. The one year I was called up for lasted five.
In May 2010, I finally took off the uniform. After all was said and done, I retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with 22 years active duty, 38 1/2 years with reserve time. My civilian position was transferred to Tampa and I went back to that for one year. One week prior to my 62nd birthday in June 2011, I walked in, said "40 years affiliation with the Department of Defense was enough" and walked out and retired from everything. The following Thanksgiving, I was in the hospital receiving a quadruple by-pass,caused by being shot as a police officer, a mortar round in Panama, and some adverse environmental conditions over the years. It all caught up.
All of this begs the question; yes, I would do it all over again knowing what I know now. Yes, if I had been drafted immediately, I would have gone to Vietnam. Upon returning, I would have finished my undergraduate degree and then gone back in as an officer. All of this was determined on that December night back in 1969.