I registered for my draft card in the middle of my senior year of high school in December, 1966, and the draft was definitely on our minds when my class finished high school in 1967. All I knew was that many of my friends were going on to college and 14 of us (3 girls included) enrolled at Clemson, previously a male-only military school and co-ed since 1955. We immediately fell victim to the dreaded freshman “rat” indoctrination that required a completely shaved head for guys, an orange CU beanie for cover and all manner of hazing and harassment from upper classmen for 6 weeks. At the time ROTC was mandatory for freshmen and sophomores and voluntary for juniors and seniors who planned to become officers. Thursday afternoons from 4 – 6 PM was drill time and we dressed in military regalia and marched with M-1 rifles for 2 hours before dinner. We also spent a lot of time worrying about keeping the minimum GPA to maintain our II-S draft deferments, while drinking beer, chasing girls and studying when absolutely necessary.
At the end of sophomore year in May, 1969, a few of our group, myself included, made the choice of signing up for advanced ROTC which effectively enlisted us in Army or Air Force reserves and required two years active duty after graduation and officer commissioning. I had no idea there would be a draft lottery in December of the same year. My memory of lottery night in 1969 revolves around alternately drinking beer at the Red Carpet bar downtown and checking the Western Union teletype in the next door window as the numbers scrolled across the paper ticker. My number came up in the 304th slot, not bad except for the fact that I had already enlisted. Bummer.
The next summer, 1970, took those of us in Army ROTC to Ft. Bragg, NC for 6 weeks of basic training that I spent with a platoon of good and decent college guys from around the southeast that I have not seen since. I sometimes wonder how their lives and careers turned out. My cadet platoon was under the charge of Capt. Wilson, a very laid-back and often absent regular Army Airborne Ranger just back from VN. A number of us took advantage and left post most evenings for the nearby Fayetteville clubs and for weekends at Myrtle Beach. It was partly Army and partly youthful partying. I seem to remember some loco weed was smoked at times too.
In the spring of 1971 I was set to graduate (graduation outfit in hand and Lt. bars ready to pin on my army uniform) and receive a commission as a 2nd Lt.; however, I was taking a semester overload of 21 hours and two professors thought my grades in their classes qualified for the “F” category. They were correct and I am forever indebted to them for those Fs. I was 6 hours short of graduation. Graduation cancelled. Army commission cancelled. Early that summer one of my high school and college buddies called to tell me that if we didn’t return to school in the fall of 1971 we would receive an honorable discharge because we had “dropped out” of school, if only for one semester. So we exercised that option, received the honorable discharge as expected, and graduated a year later in 1972.
At that time ROTC was producing more officers than needed as the war finally wound down so I’m sure they probably didn’t need me anyway. The army even had a 3 month active duty/6 year inactive reserve option for new officers. Had I been a year or two older, the choices and results may not have been as favorable. I would probably do it all over again the same way. I still have my original draft card for some unknown reason.
Oh yeah, all 14 of us graduated from Clemson, although a couple of us required 5 years, and none went to war or even active duty for more than 3 months as I recall. I credit the war for our 100% graduation rate. All 14 have done well I think and we remain friends today.