I distinctly remember anxiously awaiting the announcement of the FINAL DRAFT (the last time numbers would be assigned to birthdays for “drafting” into the military). The Vietnam War was in full swing, but I was in college; one of the legitimate exclusions from being drafted.
Since most of you don’t know how that worked, it was a lot like playing a combination of BINGO or one of the current LOTTERY games. First they would randomly select a NUMBER….. People were drafted by number. THEN they would select a BIRTHDAY. So if your birthday was matched to #1, you were pretty for sure going to be “drafted”.
My NUMBER, that year, believe it or not, was 365. I would have been in the very last group to go, which would only happen if we were in an all out war or losing one terribly. I was relieved, but then, I like to think that I would have gone had I been called. Fortunately, with today’s all volunteer military, 18-yr olds don’t have to stress about the draft.
My Grandfather John McCormick serviced in the Army and fought in France during World War I. I remember some of his absolutely brutal stories of war, and remember putting on his helmet with gas mask. As you know, WWI was trench warfare that included the use of poisonous gas, that has since been banned world wide. Lots of fighting was close up and included bayonet charges that don’t exist anymore.
His most horrific story (to me as a child) was of his experience in the medical corps. His job was to go out with a buddy and a stretcher and gather the wounded off the battlefield and bring them back to the hospital. He said they would pick up a wounded German soldier and take him to the hospital and that the German prisoner would be treated…….but that when they had a wounded German on the stretcher and, while en route to the hospital, encountered a wounded American or Ally, they would “dump” the German and pick up “our boy”.
My father was in the Army during World War II. He was never shipped overseas, put in his time and then spent the rest of his professional life as a firefighter in Covington, KY.
Dad’s brother, my Uncle Bob, served in the Korean conflict. I know he was actually in Korea but never heard his stories. The only time my uncle ever showed anger at me was when I drove to his house years after he retired —- in a Toyota. He hammered me for driving that car and told me that, “Johnny, we fought them people”. I was never quite clear if he was actually involved with Japanese or if he was just including all Orientals. I was afraid to ask him. After his military service, he became a policeman.
My mother graduated high school in 1941a (mid-year) and spoke often of so many of her friends who were either killed when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, or who joined the military immediately thereafter. This picture was the 1940 graduation class and she knew several of these people.
I did have two cousins whose family moved to Canada to avoid the draft. That happened a lot during the Vietnam era……too bad. I never saw my cousins after that.
So, even though I didn’t serve in the military, I have a healthy appreciation for what they have done and continue to do for us and I am glad we have this day set aside remember.