Luck of the Draw, Sort Of

I admire and support the U.S. military and especially solute our veterans on their day.

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As we approach Veterans Day, I like to pause and think about citizen soldiers who stand on the wall to protect us citizens. I also use the day to reflect on my own experience with military service. The fact is, I never served.

Today, we have a volunteer army, and my thanks go to those young people who raise their hands, take the oath and interrupt their “normal” lives to join the service, whether for a hitch or a career. My brush with military service came at a different time and situation, and I often wonder how different things might have been if I had drawn a lower lottery number.

When the selective service sent me my draft card in 1971, I was eligible for a college deferment because I had been accepted by my university. A couple of years into my college career, the deferment was replaced by a lottery system by which birth dates were selected, and the order of selection determined the chances of going into active service.

This was the Vietnam era, and by the time my number came up, it was pretty unpopular. At the time, the cutoff for draftees was about 140 out of 365. So if your number was above the cutoff, you were not going to be drafted. My number 306.

As time has passed, I have met veterans from my time and after. My excitement about a 306 lottery number has been tempered by the quality and discipline of these people. Several of my relatives have made careers in the service and have had interesting lives because of their experiences. I’ve learned a lot since 1971, and my views about service have matured post-Vietnam.

I admire and support the U.S. military and especially solute our veterans on their day. But as things have developed in my lifetime, our Veterans should be honored, appreciated and rewarded every day, whether they volunteered or pulled a No. 1 in the lottery.