Decisions of a Teenager

I have nothing but respect for the men and women who serve in the armed forces, regardless of the war. There have  have been many times when I wished that I had done something different, but I can’t turn back the clock. To quote a very influential philosopher from our era, “It is what it is”.

   Growing up in the 60’s a young man could not ignore the war in Viet Nam, how could anyone, it was on B&W TV every night. Thank God it wasn’t in color, but the fear and horror it put in you was impossible to shake. As I entered into my teen years and being influenced by the hippie movement, it only seemed natural to be against the war. By the time I had reached 15 my ear was leaning always in the direction of anti-war discussions and participated in the marches against it. I got to go to a SDS (Student  for a Democratic Society) meeting with a classmate, under the guise of something more innocent to our parents. Unfortunately they  (our parents) communicated with each other and I was accosted when I came in the front door, all the literature was confiscated and burned in the fireplace. My dad was a ex-Marine, he had no time for me back then and especially shit like that,  plain pissed him off!!
   In Yakima in the late 60’s on North 7th ave. ( I think) was “The Open Door”, a drug, draft and vocational counseling center, sounds pretty high- falootin, for an old house filled with hippies, but it was a great place to get info in perilous times. And living in a place where alternative ideas were not common, it felt like you had left it all behind. Soon after  I began scheming up an idea of trying to run away to Canada with a classmate who was a dual citizen from there. Being only 15 required more organization than I possessed, but the gears were turning. Walking back and forth from the guys home I spotted the get-a-way car! There it was, in all it’s glory, a 1953 Austin of England, very similar to a miniature Bonny and Clyde car, with the rumble seat protrusion in the rear, turn signals in the side of the car that extended out and blinked when turning a corner. It was a very cool car! Price $35.00! Sold! I had the money and bought it the next day.
   Being a poor sleeper afforded  me extra scheming time, so I schemed and remembered that Sidnie and Lauri  pastured horses not far from where the car was. me not knowing how to drive yet,  let alone something with a manual transmission, I had to talk them into allowing me to store the vehicle in their pasture and to also get Sidnie to get it there. They agreed! I was set. That day I was downtown with a friend when on the way back I see my car over on the side of T.H. Drive Drive. I get out and look in the car and it’s  Barrie  with Lauri and Sidnie, the car had broken down and they had a ride coming to take them to parts unknown. I was crushed.
    While sitting at home trying to figure out what to do, being of limited means, then the phone rings and my mom all of a sudden asks me, “You bought a car?” This lady wants to talk with you”, I get on the phone and the lady I bought the car from tells me she saw the car on the side of the road and told me she felt bad and was willing to give me my money back and she would just have the car hauled to the wrecking yard, I took the offer. Then lied through my teeth about the whole thing. Time for plan “B” I guess?
    Having done the minimum of growing up and also being immature, as you well know, I struggled through the next 2 1/2 years, but it did solidify my stance on being a part of the anti-war effort. My newest scheme was to become a CO, “conscientious objectoræ, I wouldn’t fight or kill another person,  something I have had to realize later on that I would, if it was to defend someone I cared about. Throughout all of this, there was a strong feeling that I was a coward, never has gone away either. By the time I was 18 I received my CO status and by June 25th I was married of all things! While getting married at a young age and with all of it’s pressures to make a living or at least squeak by, I never forgot about the war going on. After having a couple short lived jobs after getting married, both Joan and I became teacher’s aides. We never talked much about having jobs before we got married and didn’t bother to look until after,  those were the days!
    Having a friend who was serving a 2 year alternative service stint as part of being a “CO”, I had a pretty good idea that being a CO was like the equivalent of “scum of the earth”. He blazed trails in an area to become a park, it was not a fun job, living in barracks and he was not a happy camper, Myself being recently married began to think, I remembered the Barrie  guy in the Austin of England. He was also someone i grew up with until 4th grade started. I found out that he had gone in for induction to the army and answered all the questions wrong in the mental test as well as acted as looney as possible through the whole process, at least that’s what I had heard, it sounded good to me!
   While working in the Franklin JR. High Library as a teacher’s aide one of the more challenging parts of the job was to put the different newspapers onto the bamboo rods. I enjoyed that part till a day early that year when I looked on the front page. There listed were the lottery/draft date numbers, mine was there in all it’s splendor, March 6th, 1953—–#1. what the #@&**@??!!!, I had to do a double take, this can’t be, but it was. Shortly after that I received my letter, I was sick, it was notifying me I was being drafted. It gave me the time and date for the physical in Seattle on Admiral Way. It was time for more scheming and it had to be good!
    That day came faster than I wanted, but in the meantime I had gotten down to 112 pounds, below the minimum weight for my height according to military standards, I was loaded for bear now!  Joan and I made our trek to Seattle the day before, spent the night getting as stoned as possible, hoping to look as burned out as possible, all for one purpose, I am not what they are looking for! The appointment time for me and all the other guys being inducted was 7am, I was there early and met a wild looking young man who schemed like I had, but came up with possibly a better idea? He had burned in to the side of his saluting hand, FUCK YOU, it looked like a mess, but maybe he knew something I didn’t?
   The mental test was a breeze, trying to answer as many wrong as possible, I think I did a good job, but myself and about 15 guys were all called out by name and told to follow a serviceman down a long hallway, I was getting nervous for sure. The serviceman yelled out “You guys with a letter from your doctor wait over here, the rest of you strip down to your shorts and line up behind the scale!”.
    While scheming and thinking of any possible thing, I went to my doctor in Yakima that treated me for allergies when I was 6-12 years old, I asked for a letter stating that information,which they did. I waited with the letter, thinking about the guys down to their shorts and wondered, where will all of this take me? I was called  into an office with another serviceman who looked more important than the other one. He stamped my letter without really giving it much of a look and said “Get the hell out of here!”, I was stunned, looking just as stoned and confused as I had trained myself,  he said to me “IF you don’t like it, I can change it real quick!”. I made for the door as fast as I could and out of the building!!
They wanted a few good men and damn, I wasn’t one of  them!!
  I was given a 4-F classification, unfit for military service.
 I was fortunate that the war was winding down because had it been a few years earlier, the excuses I used would have never had held up.
There’s some shame and some relief.