What It Was Like Waiting For The Vietnam Draft In The 1960s

What It Was Like Waiting For The Vietnam Draft In The 1960s by @SRobbinsAuthor #Vietnam #draft #army #1960s

I’m no gambler, but I do have to admit that I get sucked into buying lottery tickets at my local grocery store whenever the pot gets over $100 million. Pretty stupid, I know, as I’ve seen the odds, and even if I won, I wouldn’t know what to do with the money.

However, there was one lottery that I “won,” but would have strongly preferred to have my losing streak with the PowerBall. The 1969 military draft lottery and my number came up as 40, a winning ticket to Viet Nam.

The Vietnam Draft

During the 60s, once a male hit age eighteen, he was required to register with the Selective Service System (SSS).  With the Vietnam War raging at the time, it wasn’t a pleasant experience. The process was filled with all sorts of anomalies; men with political connections found ways to avoid being selected. Some got bogus doctor’s notes (“flat feet” was a popular excuse) or signed up for the national guard.

If one was lucky enough to leave high school to enter college, he got a“2-S deferment” for that four-year period as a student. The result was that if you were poor, without political ties, healthy, male, and eighteen, you were classified as “1-A,” a prime target for mandatory military service of two years.

Like Tim Leahy in The Healer’s Miraculous Discovery, many young men who were caught with drugs or even marijuana were forced to join the military to escape convictions for illegal drug possession. As a practical matter, all these factors meant that minorities were overly represented in the enlisted ranks of the military.

As a way to bring some type of fairness to the whole process, SSS decided to launch a lottery system. On December 1, 1969, I clearly remember walking back to my room on a cold evening in Columbus after taking an Accounting 101 exam. I knew the lottery was taking place but didn’t give it much thought.

Getting drafted was something that happened to other guys, not me. I was convinced it was not my fate.

What It Was Like Waiting For The Vietnam Draft In The 1960s by @SRobbinsAuthor #Vietnam #draft #army #1960s

Fort Sam Houston (roughly October 1970)

Learning My Fate

When I got back to my room, all the guys were huddled around the set in the TV room, watching live as the slips of paper were drawn. They even had a large sheet of paper on the wall where they had been trying to record the dates of the corresponding draws. I looked briefly at it, couldn’t find my birthday, and went to bed, secure in the knowledge that I would not be drawn until they were well into the three-hundreds, safe from any risk of conscription.

On the morning of December second, however, I got a call from my mother. All I could hear was her crying. That wasn’t a good sign. When she told me my number, I knew I was in trouble. Many of my friends with low numbers (anything under 195 that year was likely to generate a call) talked about leaving for Canada or the Navy or finding a way out, but that wasn’t me.

I decided to be proactive for a change and take my fate into my own hands. I signed up for the Army Reserve and figured that with the waiting list, it would be a year or two before I got the call. No problem, as I still had my 2-S deferment.


Once again, I was wrong. Shortly after New Years, 1970, I got my letter inviting me to a physical exam in downtown Cleveland. On February 22, I was a member of the Army.

What It Was Like Waiting For The Vietnam Draft In The 1960s by @SRobbinsAuthor #Vietnam #draft #army #1960s

August 1970 at Fort Polk, LA (basic training)

There’s a huge irony to all this. It turned out to be one of the most important events of my life and career. In short, I was trained as a medical corpsman, which led to a forty-plus-year career in health care delivery.

But that’s a story for the next blog…


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The Healer’s Miraculous Discovery is highly recommended for libraries looking for crossovers between sci-fi and fictional representations of personal and social change. Its plausible possibilities create many insights and reflections that readers won’t see coming.”

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