I started college at age 17 in 1969 in the midst of the Vietnam War. I turned 18 my first semester and signed up for the draft as required by law. I don’t recall when the draft lottery was held but certainly recall my birthday drawn at number 33. Because I was married and in college, I was deferred until finishing school.
Fast forward to the spring of my senior year 1973, I received my notice to report on a particular Monday in April. I went home that weekend prior to visit my parents. As was our habit, my Dad and I were sitting in front of the TV watching Saturday afternoon baseball when a news bulletin interrupted the game. It was President Nixon who told the nation, “I am immediately ending the draft.” I’m sure he said much more, but that’s all I recall.
Monday morning I reported to the federal courthouse in Austin at 6:00 a.m. as instructed to find a hand-written note on the door that simply said, “By Presidential Order You Do Not Have to Report.”
Between 1969 and 1973 I had changed tremendously in my politics and view of the war. The tragedy at Kent State was a watershed event for me. I left Texas A&M and its ROTC culture to finish my degree at the University of Texas at Austin.
Had that Presidential Order been delayed a week, I would have been inducted. I’m not sure what kind of soldier I would have been, but my personality likely would have made me follow orders and do my best. Had I gone to Vietnam, I don’t know if I would have been one of those second lieutenants who didn’t survive the jungle or pushed paper in an office behind the lines. It is interesting to reflect these 46 years later.
Armistice Day was first celebrated on November 11, 1919, to honor the terrible sacrifice of soldiers in WWI. Officially renamed Veteran’s Day in 1954, when this day comes around each year, I often think about my near miss. But mostly I think about the family and friends who did go to war or are currently in the military.
- My father’s youngest brother Raymond who was a medic in the Pacific during WWII.
- My father-in-law Sam Holder who was a Marine also in the Pacific theater.
- Jim Lee’s brother and stepfather both in the Army in Vietnam.
- One of my best friends in the loss prevention industry Jim “Mac” MacKenzie who was a Marine in Vietnam.
- Another LP friend Melissa Mitchell who served—and sang—in the Air Force.
- Our close Charlotte friends’ son Evan who grew up playing army with our kids and is now a major in the US Army Special Forces.
I could list many more friends from high school and the LP industry, but that’s not the point. Here’s my point on this day:
No matter whether you are a veteran or not. No matter your politics or what you think about war. One thing we all should be able to do at least one day a year is feel gratitude and pride for those who served in the military in whatever capacity to support our democracy and take up arms to protect our country. Without individuals willing to put their lives on the line for the greater good, the United States and free countries everywhere would not enjoy the freedoms and liberties we are blessed with today.
Enjoy this Veteran’s Day, but please take a minute to think about someone you know who served in the military. You don’t need to wave a tiny flag to show your appreciation. Simply note it in your heart and mind while you take a deep breath of freedom.