Greetings: You are hereby ordered for induction …

Fifty five years ago at this very minute, I struggled to open my right eye. The pain was unbearable. I made a phlegmy, raspy noise and pulled the covers over my head. It hurt to think.

I was still in the clothes I would be wearing for the next four days. I had on cranberry pants and a wine stained yellow Ban-lon shirt.

The letter from the draft board was laying next to the bed with a beer can on it

My room was right off the kitchen and I could hear the rest of my tribe, all eleven of them, readying for their day.

This was my “Garden of Gesthemane” moment. I was praying for someone, anyone, to take this cup from me. Because today was the day, September 16, 1966, when my life would end.

It was the first day of my unsought military career.

My poor mother was a wreck. Vietnam was all day, every day. The atrocities and casualty count was the lead story on all three major networks.

Now, her oldest and unwisest, was heading off to slaughter. The one who couldn’t even find his shoes that morning.

Oh, the agony that woman endured.

My father, my eternal nemesis, was home that day with his face buried in the newspaper. Trying not to make a snide remark that would provoke my mother.

Once I mooched a few cigarettes and bus fare, I staggered down the back stairs to my darkest fate.

After vomiting in the neighbor’s bushes, I walked to the bus stop at the end of my street and got on my first connection to the South Boston Naval Yard Induction Center.

My life, at that point, was over.

The induction center that day, looked like a rock concert. There was wall-to-wall confusion, fist fights and lines everywhere.

In a few hours, we would be hastily sworn in and were told that from that moment on, we were “Government Issue.”


After a riotous, rebellious, and drunken five day train ride to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, we were taken off our passenger cars by MP’s using night sticks.

Then we were given ponchos so we could stand out in the rain all day waiting to be processed.

This was one of the largest drafts of the war. Thousands of train cars linked from Boston to Columbia, South Carolina. Masses of unwilling victims who didn’t want to be there.

Everything from the engine to the caboose showed signs of wreckage.

In return, they spent that first week letting us know who was boss.

The demons those sons-a bitches wrenched from my body didn’t go without a fight. I bled, I ached, I cried, I begged for mercy, They would have none of it. They ran us, marched us, grass drilled us and pushed us to the limits of our already threatened sanity.

The cruelty knew no bounds. Relentless.

I could actually sleep standing up.

About six weeks in, the fever started to break. Formations formed quicker and we instinctively knew our “military” left from our right.

Six mile runs seemed shorter and muscles stopped aching. There was less bitching, our fatigues started to fit better and we stood up straighter.

There was even less groaning when “Double Time” was called, and hardly  anyone was lining up for sick call.

Fast forward to today. I rise from slumber before daylight with a clear head and a plan. I make my bed before I hit the loo.

I hit the coffee button then I grab my sneakers.

Everything works.

I am organized and dangerous.

I have a tight belly, strong legs and a healthy constitution.

At 75, I have the body of a teenager.

And I spend no time wondering what my life would be like if I hadn’t had that incredible experience.

It’s just too painful to contemplate.

Thank you.


Please note: I welcome comments that are offensive, illogical or off-topic from readers in all states of consciousness.

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2 thoughts on “Greetings: You are hereby ordered for induction …

  1. Gee, this is very interesting, but sharply different from my own experience. I graduated from high school in May, 1967. My mother drove me to the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, induction station on September 27, 1967. There were three of us RAs and about 35 people being drafted who would get US service numbers plus two NGs or National Guard. Things were quiet and orderly. No fights, no squalor, no one shouting., no MPs. We had a physical, took some tests, (more tests for me, I had been there some weeks before to take tests.) We were sworn in and taken by bus to the airport where we got on a Boeing 720B to fly to Denver, then a 727 to Salt Lake, then another to SeaTac, getting in there about midnight. We followed an NCO’s instructions to get on a civilian Greyhound-type bus to Tacoma where we switched to a Tacoma city bus that went to the processing center at Ft. Lewis. No MPs, no force, no one trying to get away, no one accompanying us over any leg of the journey. We were all sleep deprived, but were always protected from rain and cold. We filled in forms for about two hours, were bussed to a transit barracks with beds but no sheets, slept for a couple of hours and were directed over to the mess hall for morning chow. From there we somehow were separated into companies and met our drill sergeants. Haircuts, uniform issue, first vaccinations, first learning to march took up that day. We got noon and evening meals, drew sheets and pillowcases and found bunks. A drill sergeant slept in the “cadre room” every night for the first three weeks or so. We drew field gear and did more drill and ceremonies, how to fall in , right face, left face, forward march, etc. Eight weeks of BCT, no one went AWOL, no one in any trouble with the MPs, no one injured to the point requiring hospitalization or that would have caused recycling. 56 started in our platoon and 56 graduated.

    It must have been a different year and a different culture. Our platoon was made up of people who came in in Sioux Falls, Ottumwa, Iowa, a packing plant town SE of Des Moines, and San Jose, CA. The San Jose group included some spoiled suburban boys and some sons of migrant workers, plus one member of the famed Santa Clara Swim Club who, as a friend and teammate of Don Scholander, the Michael Phelps of U.S. 1960s swimming, had gold medaled in a team event in 1964 and was headed to the 1968 Olympics. It took me more than 24 of my 36 month enlistment to arrive in Vietnam and I got 24 weeks of Brazilian Portuguese training, 40 hours per week in a class of four with one instructor. There was a fair bit of drug use with the 173rd Airborne at LZ English in Vietnam in 1970, but my experience seems very different from yours. Glad things turned out well for you.

    I too have had a good life, semi-retired economist, had 4,300+ undergrad and masters students, worked abroad for USAID in Peru, Brazil Czech Republic, Barbados, etc. Worked for Minneapolis Fed, write weekly newspaper column, still own some farmland in SW Minnesota rented to cousins, give lectures for St. Paul & suburbs library systems, etc. etc. Good luck to you