I grew up in the Vietnam era where the draft was still operating and deferments were easy to get. Colleges were filled with young men who attended for no other reason than to avoid the draft. Then the draft lottery was instituted in 1969.
The days of the year, represented by the numbers from 1 to 366 (including Leap Year Day), were written on slips of paper and the slips were placed in plastic capsules. The capsules were mixed in a shoebox and then dumped into a deep glass jar. Capsules were drawn from the jar one at a time.
The first day number drawn was 257 (September 14), so all registrants with that birthday were assigned lottery number 1. Men of draft age (those born between 1944 and 1950) whose birthday fell on the corresponding day of the year would all be drafted at the same time. Only the first 195 birthdates drawn in the 1969 lottery were called to serve; the last date called was September 24.
My friend Tom Donahue was born on September 24 1950. He was numero uno (he will appreciate the Spanish lingo) except that he had a bad back. Another deferment. My number was 269, April 5. I almost won the dorm lottery as the person with the highest number. I was never drafted. I only know one person who served and died in Vietnam.
These and more memories have moved front and center in my mind after all the babble surrounding the murderous actions of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. Hasan is a career officer and a medical doctor. He is not married and has no children. If he had a conscientious objection to serving in the military, he should have resigned. No one was forcing him to stay in. If he was going to be sent to Afghanistan, then he should have done what many in the Vietnam era did . . . move to Canada.
There was more angst and protest about the Vietnam War than there has been over these Middle East wars. The draft was the reason. Now that we have an all-volunteer army, there is no direct self-interest in protesting a war that you will probably never see.
But with all the protests, I don’t know of anyone who shot and killed 12 people and wounded more than 30 and blamed it on Pre-Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yes, there were those who protested. There was even some violence, but nobody did what this guy did. So let’s stop making excuses for him. Let’s get him healthy so he can be executed in the same fashion that he executed his fellow soldiers. The relatives of those killed should be given the opportunity to pull the trigger at least once.