1969, a junior in high school, and turned 18. So I have to register for the draft, which means I get a draft card, and living in Western CT, means I can drive to NY, go to the bars, buy beer, seems like adulthood, seems like freedom.
1970, senior in high school, not a good student, beer, grass, and a lottery number of 19…and a girl who said come with me to church, to a march.
Summer 1970, he said the beer was best in the Air Force, enlist, before you’re drafted. I enlisted.
Basic training, was just get by, don’t be seen.
Tech school, aircraft electrician, months of schooling on aircraft systems, also newspapers, television, visions of those who came before me, showing where I was headed, what I was a part of. There were others, many others, wondering, questioning, saying it was was capitalism, imperalism, that America was evil.
In fatigues I marched to tech school, In civilian clothes, I marched at the entry of the Air Force Base in opposition to “The War”. While I was in the Air Force, I was still a citizen, my vote, my beliefs mattered, even if they had not matured…yet. In between the marching to tech school and march outside the gate, I read, I read the words Gandi, Martin Luther King, the actions of Jesus. Tech school ended, those who I served with, marched with, conversed with, moved on, some returned home to the guard, some headed overseas, some, including me were sent to bases in the U.S., some headed to North to Canada.
At the new base, I was a electrician working on KC 135 refueling planes and B-52s. The B-52s carried nuclear weapons. We practiced launching those weapons, in a matter of seconds, but to where, why. I wondered if I should have gone North too. My father fought in WWII, the reason for his war seemed much clearer, well defined, Vietnam was so much harder to understand what we’re we figthing for, not the song, but really what we’re we dieing for. Even so, North seemed wrong, this is my country too. Change is based on paticaption, not running away to the North.
Reply letters from those who went to Canada we’re stamped as “Opened by the US Government”. Was there trust in government?
I found a place in the all of it, called Conscious Objector Status. CO status is an opposition to war, not “The War”, not a belief in particular religion, but a held spritual belief, not a requirement of pasficion but a belief in non-violence.
What I found remarkable, was not that there is a name for the place I found myself, but rather that the government of the United States, individuals who govern my country, reconigized, acknowledged, and accepted in writing, the right of an individual to hold beliefs which stood on higher grounds than the politics of the day. How many other places on this Earth, allow an individual to stand contrary to those who govern?
When I marched outside the gate, we were assulted for saying The War was wrong, that we were un-american, Inside the gate, we were shipped to war zones.
In between I was granted CO status. My father’s letter, included in the CO application, ended with “having served we won the battles, perhaps my son will end the war”