And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! We're all gonna die.
Many of you reading this probably do not remember Country Joe and the Fish but Joe's songs were just one of myriad thoughts and memories that came to me during our six-day Educational Field Trip to Viet Nam. It has been 40 years since the most intense years of the American War, as it is refered to in Viet Nam. Even though both countries and most folks have 'moved on,' it seems clear to me that the Viet Nam War was our generation's war, deeply embedded in our psyches regardless of whether one received an exemption from any service, did service as a civilian or in the reserves, or spent time on the ground or in the air in southeast Asia. And thus, just looking over the map, our itinerary, and the flight route from Hong Kong to Saigon brought forth many memories of the 60's - the Gulf of Tonkin, Hanoi, Hue, Da Nang, Khe Sahn, Cam Ranh, Cu Chi, Can Tho, the Mekong Delta.
The 1969 Draft Lottery Number for May 3
However, in 1968, when I graduated from college, everyone got drafted. And as we found out at our physical and mental examinations in Chicago, everyone was fit for the military. Actually there were a couple people who failed and were declared 4-F, but the great majority were I-A, including one friend with a heart murmur [the examining doctor was hard of hearing :-], and another who was nearly blind, but only in one eye! We also learned that by signing our name at the top of the military aptitude test, we had passed our mental competency exam. Thus, being declared I-A, it was then time for my local draft board to consider my request for I-O status and to serve two years in Civilian Public Service [CPS] as a conscientious objector. Given the need for draftees, not many people were granted I-O status. However, with the guidance of the late Bob Detweiler, several of us filled out alternative service papers in 1964 at the time we turned 18 and first registered with the Selective Service System. At the time, we really had no idea how much the war would escalate during our college years with the accompanying pressure on draft boards to meet their quotas, but our group of 5 or 6 guys from College Mennonite Church were all granted I-O status and were assigned to CPS. And each of us had good friends in Viet Nam, which kept us very much emotionally involved in the war, emotions that continue to this day.