It was my Junior year at the University of Kansas. The Vietnam War raged on, both abroad and at home. Overseas, my high school classmates, college fraternity brothers, and college classmates fought and were injured or killed in a conflict that, to this day, honestly no one understands or can justify. At home the war and feelings about it divided families and communities–a nation wrestled and its citizens suffered.
The night of the Lottery, my Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers and I moved televisions into the dining room so that we could all be together to watch the event and comfort each other. It was both terrifying and mesmerizing.
I have two specific recollections of lottery dates: my birthday, May 29; and Christmas Day, December 25.
When December 25 was announced so early in the Draft, there was a hush in the room that was palpable. Just by coincidence, it hit one of my pledge brothers and closest friends. He was the first of us to get hit…the first to go. But what was more anesthetizing was the awful realization that the date we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, a date that inculcates our society with peace and love for all mankind, could be so brutally dragged into the Quagmire.
We all sat and waited for our dates to be announced, but it was December 25 that hit us all squarely: this was not a game. Our lives were now fully controlled by an entity that did not know us and did not care what effect this had on our futures.
I lived in and was registered in Johnson County, Kansas, the large suburban backyard of the Kansas City metroplex. My year, the lottery never even got close to 100 in my county. I was not to be drafted, but I was not to be unaffected. I went to as many of the funerals and services for my classmates and friends as I could. I followed the fortunes of my draftee- and enlisted–friends. I wore my POW bracelet and, like all America, wondered when would the carnage end?
Now, I’m proud to honor the men and women who fight in another senseless war overseas. I honor their courage and am humbled by their commitment. I pray for their safe return and grieve when they do not.
One thing I will never fully understand: if these wars that ravage our nation’s future and needlessly bankrupt the resources we need for education, health care and technology are so important, why don’t we leave our young people here and, instead, send Congress to fight them?