It’s hard to believe it was forty –five years ago. It was so different from now. I was 18, innocent and trusting. The world was in turmoil as we were involved in Viet Nam. All the guys who I graduated with had registered with the draft. We all knew someone who went over and did not come back. It was an unjust situation. You had to register and you had to take your chances.
There were tons of stories on how to get out of being drafted but it was very hard to be 4F. My hubby was one of the lucky ones who was exempt for a medical reason. His number was 35 in 1968.
My sister had many friends who went over. My brothers all went to college and were exempt. My first close experience was in 1972 with a Vet who had returned. His name was John. I was going to college with my best friend from high school. We had sung as a duo since the time we met. Music was our lives. There was a big presence of returning Vets who went back to school at the college. She ended up marrying one. She and I joined the Jazz group on campus and went on tour to other colleges on the East Coast. John was in the group and played guitar like a dream. We eventually formed a group with another guitarist named John, also an older Vet, and the four of us called ourselves Synapse. We were good.
I had it for John really bad. He really was not that good looking. He was older and I think that had appeal. He also had his own apartment which for us who still lived at home was a super plus. He was also pretty messed up and did drugs. No one could wake him up or startle him. He would go bat shit if you did. There was a lot more, but let it suffice that although there were many firsts with him, it was not a stable relationship. But oh, could he play a 12 string.
Then I met my ex. He was also 19 and in a band. He was on the draft at a precarious 200 number. He would be called up eventually. He was not going to go to college and was working as a machinist. But at that time, his love was music too. He was in a band called Jaspur who played country rock and was very popular. He had long hair and a beard. He did not do drugs. We met, fell in love and made plans to go to Canada. It was my dream to have a farm and he was prepared, city boy that he was, to live in the woods instead of Nam. The draft ended in 1973 and the need to escape ended.
Later in our lives, he became a cop and fell in with a group of right wing supremist who were all ex marines. He blamed me for not going into the service. That is just another reason why he is my ex.
My family did have members who served. My sister-in-law is a lieutenant and actually served oversees during the Nam war. My Uncle and his son were/are both commissioned officers in the Navy. My oldest nephew had one foot out the door of high school and the other in the Navy. He served for over 20 years and just recently retired as a Master Chief. I won’t say he isn’t messed up because he is. He feels like life sort of passed him by and wished he had a family. My mother’s father served also. WWII was the cause of the death of my grandfather. He was really messed up when he came back and they thought he might have been gassed. He died in a sanitarium.
I think the fear of being sent to war made my generation hateful of the government and we do not trust it. Returning soldiers were not greeted at the airport with banners and flags. They were spit on. Nam ruined lives in many ways and this was before they had treatments for PTSD like they do now. The generations after us have no idea what it was like to know that graduating from high school could be a death sentence. It is not like my parents’ generation where going to war was glory and honor. There was honor in my grandparent’s generation too.
I am not against the people who serve. I am against war. I abhor violence. I think we are still involved in places we should not be. I think it is crazy to sacrifice our young. But I know I would rally for a real cause if need be. I thank the people who served whether they had to or choose to. It is a true sacrifice. I mourn those who did not return. And I grieve for the lives ever changed by the horrors they saw.
I pray every day that the blond idiot in the White House does not get us into a conflict with his mouth.