50 years ago on December 1, 1969, Steve huddled around the TV in his dorm at Western Kentucky University as the first draft lottery since 1942 got under way. He had just turned 21 three days before and was in his junior year. Within minutes, the relative peace he enjoyed as a college student shattered before his eyes.
This is how the lottery worked; each day of the year was printed on a piece of paper. These pieces of paper, representing each potential draftee’s birthday, were placed in blue plastic capsules. Then all 366 capsules (one for each day of the year, including leap years) were placed in a large glass jar.
As millions watched on TV or listened on radio, the capsules were drawn from the jar, one by one, The first data drawn was assigned a draft number of “one”; the next date drawn received received draft number “two”; and so on until each day of the – each potential birthday – had be drawn from the jar and assigned a draft number.
After the lottery, draftees were called for duty in order of the draft number, beginning with number “one,” preceding to number “two,” and so on until the military’s manpower needs were met. So if you drew a low number in the lottery, you were likely to be drafted; if you drew a high number, you probably wouldnt be In this particular draft, anyone who received a number lower than 196 was eventually called to report; anyone who received 196 or higher was not.
Steve’s number was 47. It became apparent that he needed to go make peace with the ROTC instructor he had told off when he quite ROTC the year before. He could do this or be sent into the Army as a private. If he finished the ROTC he would be allowed to finish collage and enter the Army as an officer. The next morning he entered the ROTC department and discovered there was a new instructor, who was more than happy to welcome him back into the program.
This night started our adventure for the next 41 years and has provided the life style we have today.
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