By MIKE SPINDELL
The truth of the matter is that I didn’t serve in the Vietnam War. Besides not believing in it, I was simply not cut out to be in the military, either by temperament, or by physical ability. Being in college from 1962 to 1966 I had a student deferment. After college, as the war was really heating up, I feared being drafted. At first I tried to enlist in the Air Force thinking my poor eyesight would put me on ground duty. The recruiter told me that I wasn’t to worry because bombardiers in B52’s could wear glasses. There was no way in hell that I was going to be a bombardier and so I was going to be subject to the draft. I might have split for Canada, but that didn’t seem possible at the time, even though I was an orphan. I went down to Whitehall Street, the New York City Selective Service Center, with no sleep after having spent the night smoking pot and drinking bourbon. At Whitehall you had to strip down to your undershorts and were processed into lines for various physical examinations. The first was for a urine sample and you had to pee into a cup over a long trough, with literally dozens of other men peeing with you. The second was for an eye exam, where I was told my 20x/100x vision, with extreme myopia, was no problem in combat. At the third was an exam of my feet and I was told my fallen arches actually made me a better candidate for marching. And so it went on for hours until I came to the last exam station: blood pressure. They put the cup on me and the medics eyes widened because my blood pressure was 212 over 175. They had me lie down and relax. About 30 minutes later they took it again and it hadn’t gone down. Thinking I had taken something to raise my bp they sent me to the Fort Hamilton Hospital, in Brooklyn, for overnight observance. They tested my pressure four times during the night with no real change. I saw an M.D. in the morning who told me I was being put on a list of those ineligible for the draft, but that they would test me in another year and that I should see a doctor immediately.
I was jubilant as I rode the train back to Queens. I didn’t see a doctor. Knowing that he would put me on a medication to lower my blood pressure and knowing I would have to come back the following year, I didn’t want it lowered. The next year I returned and my bp was still quite high, thus I received a permanent deferment and never had to serve in Vietnam. I disclose this as a prelude to a suggestion that I’m going to make in this Memorial Day Post, which is that this country should re-institute drafting young people into the military, with the understanding that to do so will unlikely ever affect me or my children. With also the understanding that I marched in Washington in the first large march against the war and those many other marches that followed. Also I believe with General Smedley Butler, Congressional Medal of Honor winner, that “War is a racket”. Permit me to make my case. Continue reading