You came of age during the Vietnam War. Share some of your impressions of the war from your teenage/young adulthood. Did you, your parents, or your siblings have strong opinions about the war and/or the draft?
The biggest concern I had was with the draft, as you might expect for teenagers at the time. The actual reason for the “war” (not really, the U.S. never declared war) and why it was needed didn’t really concern me, I was focused on high school, getting ready for college, working, and camping. Nobody I knew cared, at least not until 1969 when the first draft lottery took place.
My older brother, then seventeen years old, would face the draft in 1970 and while he probably would avoid the draft using a college deferment, it wasn’t a sure thing. For the next couple of years, we would listen to the news as they selected the birthdates that would be chosen first, hoping for a high number and dreading getting a low number. As I recall my brother was fortunate to have pretty high numbers, and we shared a sigh of relief each time.
I turned eighteen in October 1973, nine months after the draft ended in January. I never had to nervously sit and wait for October 8th to be called.
When the draft started a whole lot more people paid attention, demonstrations became heated and more people wanted to understand why our country was involved in a conflict halfway around the world with no end in sight. The draft was probably the biggest reason, in my opinion, that we eventually called it quits in 1973. The all-volunteer soldiers that powered the military from 1964 through 1969 were one thing, but being forced to fight was another, and people needed a really good reason to do that, which clearly wasn’t there.
The other lasting memory was the disrespect shown to soldiers as they returned home. Today you hear “thanks for your service” all the time, but in the 1970s all you heard was contempt and disdain. I remember how mean people were, releasing their anger on these young men who were following orders, not the politicians and senior military staff who gave those orders. Cowards berating soldiers. That’s pretty low.