Uncle Sam Wants You

Decades ago I was about to graduate from high school.  My senior year we were, due to tax issues, on split sessions which meant 7am classes and the music classes, my fun time, met at the overlapping noonish hours and by 1:30p I was on the golf course with my band director and/or in a music practice room.  I had a music scholarship to college and, more importantly, I just got a golf scholarship - actually 2 in one day to play in college so my course was set regardless of choice and I was going to put the old shoulder to the wheel and practice one or the other.  This day, 46 years ago, I was sitting in my world literature class when, with a knock on the door and a message for 3 of us to "come to the main office immediately".  Happy to be free of Lord of the Flies down we went and suddenly things weren't fun.

Edith Shark (no kidding and I am pretty sure she is long since dead so ...) was in the main office and about a dozen of us who had early/middle April birthdays were waiting for an introduction...obviously some honor - "a major prize" as the saying goes from The Christmas
Story and like Ralphie's dad, we got the proverbial plastic leg lamp.  

"Gentlemen, I would like you to meet Mrs. Edith Shark.  The gentleman with her is Special Agent Mr...(I was in a blurr in an instant  with the words "special agent" and for the life of me I can't remember)....you are all in violation of the Selective Service Act of yada yada that carries with it a fine, prison time, OR WORSE...you will all report to the Selective Service Office in the County Building on May 20 at 10am".  

On the appointed day and time we showed up on a high floor at Bay City's County Building/City Hall...all except one fellow who was a true draft dodger instead of just someone like me who was too busy to do this required thing...and we showed up..this week 46 years ago...and Ms. Shark greeted us with all the aura and bon vivant of the grim reaper, informed us that we would, as punishment NOT go to federal prison but would, instead, copy, verbatim the selective service act sections that dealt with late registration...required when you hit 18.

The commander in chief, a President Johnson had a special speech so at 11am we put down our pencils and watched this little black and white TV tuned to WNEM-TV and Mr. Johnson announced that about a half million 18 year olds were going to be sent to Viet Nam........

So there we sat, all late registrants, all clearly ready to be sent to federal prison as Ms. Shark was quick to point out at every break in the telecast, and I was watching my golf and music stuff evaporate like the morning dew in sunlight.  In spite of what was then "college deferments" I went 1-A (ready to go) immediately and took draft physicals every spring for the next 5 years and put all life's plans on hold or just moved them some place else.

I didn't serve then - but 14 of my friends and/or their friends  from college who went in under the "buddy system" all died in a helicopter training class and my fraternity brothers who showed up at the mass military funeral for the ones we knew and didn't know felt guilty because these poor souls died and we were still on the outside of it waiting our turn.