Continued from Draft Day 1970, Part I
On May 4, 1970, just four days after my decision to decline enlistment into the Navy, I walked downtown to get the mail for my mom. I was about halfway home when I noticed one of the letters in a brown envelope was for me. I opened it right there. “Greetings, from the President of the United States of America . . .” Damn! It was my draft notice. On May 10th, I boarded a bus in Denison, Iowa, along with another Crawford County male resident to the same building I was in less than two weeks ago. This time, I was not given an option.
Before I got on the bus, I was standing with my mom. There was another woman who mom knew, and her son was standing with her. That woman asked if I would watch out for her son who had never in his life traveled out of the county. Wow! I said I would, but I have to be honest. I had no intention of interfering with the life of a 19-year-old that was about to have some of the most harrowing experiences of his life. His name was Al.
There were two guys from Carroll County on the bus. One was Jim from Carroll, the other was Jeff from Glidden. Jim knew me, but I didn’t know who he was. Before the bus reached Omaha, we were best friends.
The four of us went through some tests. Most were conducted months prior to induction. Those were the intrusive ones where we were all walking around in our underwear. The tests this time were just some simple follow-up procedures. We were put up in a one-star hotel for the night and instructed to stay in our rooms. Well, that was a challenge. Jim went through the phone book and found the telephone number for one of two guys we both knew from Carroll. I graduated from Kuemper High School with both of them; Jim went to Carroll High. We called them and they invited us over.
Jim and I hopped in a cab and rode over to the apartment shared by Tommy and Skitch. We smoked pot, drank beer and listened to Spirit in the Sky by goat farmer Norman Greenbaum over and over and over again. We somehow made it back to the flea bag hotel for the night.
The following day was comprised of more tests and a lot of waiting around. Jim said good-bye; he was released. It was several years before I found out that he was released because he had a criminal record. However, he was drafted again a few months later and sent to Germany. I met him at a party in Auburn, north of Carroll, just about a year after both of us had been discharged and he told me the whole story, which I forget now.
After waiting for what seemed like hours, we were whisked off down the stairs (no elevators) to the alley below – about seven floors. We were jammed into private cars and quickly driven to Eppley Airfield north of Omaha. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the procedure taken by the military personnel was to avoid anti-war demonstrators out front.
There must have been thirty of us because from that day on we were the largest portion of the platoon of Charley Company, 2-1, whatever that means. The “2” may have been a squad and the “1” the number of our platoon. We were made up of 19-year-olds from Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
We were secured tightly at the airport. However, there were no soldiers or police, but you could tell that some of the drivers of vehicles moving us to the airport were packing. They looked so casual. I’m sure at least one of them was waiting for one of us to separate from the group and seek freedom. Didn’t happen. We were all making new friends and discovering small bits about each other.
It was my first time on a commercial airline. We made a stop in Denver, picking up about ten more draftees that would round out C-2-1. We arrived at SeaTac south of Seattle and were bused to Fort Lewis, Washington, our new home for nine months.
I have no idea where Jim is now. Jeff passed away last year. Skitch passed away a few years ago, and Alan died a little over ten years ago. Tommy lives in Arizona.
Norman Greenbaum was a one-hit wonder and is still alive today, but when he dies, he’s going up to the Spirit in the Sky.
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