Chapter 3 Dan Quayle and I Avoid Vietnam
After graduating from Marietta College, my parents and I drove to Washington DC where my father was consulting and I would be working for the General Accounting Office. The game plan was for the GAO to get me into a local reserve unit before being drafted.
My parents had a small one bedroom apartment close to where Dad worked and as it turned out, within a 10 minutes’ walk of my GAO assignment at the Department of Interior.
I quickly decided that working for the government was not for me. Our department head had a GS thirteen pay grade and was trying to make fourteen quickly while my immediate supervisor, a man in his late thirties, planned to stay at eleven until retirement. The entire operation was slow motion and I wanted a little faster pace.
After work was also boring as I was in the process of losing the forty pounds college life had bestowed. I just waited for the GAO to do their thing and vegetated. In mid-July my boss reported there were no openings. My parents were spending time at our Kingston, Massachusetts home. Two days of contemplation led to a decision. I called the bus station on Friday evening about six PM and was on the 11PM bus to Kingston and whatever awaited me.
By the time I got home my parents were already on their way back to Washington where they would be a little confused by their empty apartment. Monday morning I called the GAO, apologized for not resigning in person, and began to search for a way out of being drafted while at the same time preparing to be drafted. I had lost more than twenty pounds which gave me a chance of getting through basic training! Being drafted would have meant combat or a desk job. Being a college graduate and one of the weakest males ever created, a desk job was a real possibility. I figured combat might kill me and with a desk job boredom would kill me!
Monday morning brought a visit to my draft board where a very friendly lady said it would not be long before “my number was up.” We had a nice talk about her wayward son having problems in high school and my personal experiences on the subject allowed me to be very sympathetic and encouraging. She provided me with a list of addresses and phone numbers of eastern Massachusetts guard locations and also mentioned that the Middleboro guard unit had an opening. Her being friendly to my avoidance efforts was important because a pro war draft board would have had me saluting within a few weeks.
That afternoon I was in Middleboro inquiring about the opening which turned out to be for an education specialist. It had been filled by an active member with no college and I could tell the old sergeant thought a college graduate with my personality and initiative would be good for the job. My acceptance into the guard seemed a certainty when my military physical papers being in Washington DC became a problem. The Sargent said there was nothing he could do. No physical documentation, no guard. I quickly asked about taking another physical. It took a while to convince him but eventually my physical was set for the Boston Navy Yard.
Over the next week I took the physical, talked to other guard units, and stopped by the selective service office to say hello. Found out the board would draft me at next week’s meeting.
One morning my brother Stanley speculated out loud as to whether his former employer, the New England Aeronautical Institute, had found his replacement. Upon graduating, Stan had worked for an insurance company and then taught business subjects for a brand new Nashua, New Hampshire junior college with about fifteen first year students. Year two classes were starting in about three weeks. Stan wanted to know about his replacement and convinced me to call. I did and to our disbelief, the job was open! Three weeks to go and their most important teacher had not been hired. An eleven AM next day appointment was scheduled. My driving to another state required a map.
I made the ninety mile drive and located the school. Being more than an hour early, I visited down town Nashua. Walking over a bridge crossing the very narrow Nashua River, I noticed what a beautiful mid-August day it was and pondered for the first time since my low draft lottery number came up years earlier the prospect of not serving in the military.
I met with Mr. Sheffield, the school President and one of its three founders, the others being Jim Tamposie, the owner of Nashua Aviation and Warren Rudman, a local attorney who would become State Attorney General and then New Hampshire’s U.S. Senator. We talked for a while and then Mr. Sheffield excused himself and left for lunch. A little bewildered, I killed time talking with the secretary Mrs. Stefano and looked around the hanger that had been converted into a school with five classrooms, a library, and a few offices. Harry returned, we chatted for a while, and Harry said he would let me know.
The next morning I had the job and was off to Nashua for an appointment letter and then to the draft board with a deferment application. The nice lady pointed to a stack of letters and said my draft notice was in the stack. She also said once sealed, it was illegal to not to mail the letter. Casually, she went over to the stack, took out an unsealed envelope, and said she would present my material to the board.
The Middleboro sergeant called the next day saying I was to be inducted that night. He knew of my possible deferment and was happy for me. The next morning I visited Middleborough and personally thank him. He noticed the paper bag I placed on the floor. We had a nice chat and I left behind the bag containing a quart of Crown Royal. A week later the Taunton, Massachusetts guard unit called about an opening they had for me.
It had been quite a summer. My first professional job had been a failure and I returned to Massachusetts fully expecting to enter the military because every news source reported that all guard units in the state were full. A little work and a lot of luck had gotten me into two units and a teaching deferment. Now I was about to continue my lifelong educational experience.
And Now the Rest of the Story
The politics of war were not of interest to me and avoiding the draft by going to Canada was not a consideration. Working and saving from the summer I turned nine years old with the proceeds going into a savings account had made me anxious to start having material things.
Did my draft board purposely wait to seal my draft notices until the last possible moment to make a last minute deferment possible?
My very positive experiences with military education make an alternate time line for my life that involved with military education an interesting possibility.
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