So I need to confess, before continuing with my "growing-up-drafty" memoir, that I was at neither of those historic sites. Allowing you to infer that I saw combat duty not only makes me a lounge lizard, but is disrespectful to all those who actually served in Vietnam, whether they were drafted or volunteered.
Here's how it went down, as they say on the streets:
The old selective-service system changed on December 1, 1969, to a lottery system (well explained here, and you can watch the procedure here). Briefly, the first 122 birth dates drawn from a glass vat or cauldron or crucible were certain to receive a draft notice; those between 122 and 244 (roughly) were in a murky twilight zone, ever listening for the Selective Service's hushed approaching footsteps; starting at 245, a fellow could relax and plan a life for himself.
As I have previously made clear, I knew my number would be low, that I'd be drafted, sent to Vietnam and killed.
Well, in the words of Mark Twain, "I'm an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."
My number was low -- 63 (none of us will forget our numbers) -- so I knew I was toast. I took the standardized military entrance exam and scored well enough to be a part of that scholarly brotherhood known as the Air Force (take that, Mrs. Burgerstram!). So I was never sent to Vietnam, even though many of my friends in the Air Force were. Consequently, I was never killed in Vietnam.
|Airman Basic Roy Starling during "boot camp," Lackland AFB, 1970: Proof that you can be miserable as hell and still smile.|
Choosing the Air Force required me to serve four years, while the draft required two, with one of those almost certainly being in Nam. Perhaps I'll reflect on how I felt and still feel about that in a later post, but that's enough for now.
Sooo . . . while my adolescent brothers and I stood, cloaked in dread, toe to heel in an endless line for a shot at premature death or permanent disfigurement; while that line transformed itself into a labyrinth too complex for our still undeveloped brains to solve; while our values, which were little more than unprocessed bits of received knowledge handed down from dubious sources, steered us toward no-win moral and ethical dilemmas; while all of this burdened our teen years so heavily we could feel ourselves sucked into quicksand composed primarily of still undetectable bullshit, what were our girlfriends and sisters thinking?
I have no idea, but in my next post, I'll ponder this issue and discuss Tim O'Brien's take on war and the sexes in his masterpiece, The Things They Carried, a Nam-era literary treasure that both the French and pretentious Americans would label realisme magique and a cri de coeur.