Draft Two

This is another post that has taken some effort to write. A few posts back you read about my early experiences with the Vietnam era draft. In this post I tell the rest of the tale.

When we left this story I had been given a six month medical deferment after a near miss with the draft.  This was 1970.  By the time I returned for a re-examination the rules had changed again and 2 temporary medical deferments (1Y) became a permanent medical one, what was known as a 4F.

There are many stories about young men doing things to themselves to avoid service in that war.  The self-abuse and self-mutilation were often terrible things. That was not me.

As the six month count down continued I did two things:  I applied for conscientious objector status (a CO) and went to a psychiatrist. 

My CO application was not difficult to write but it was complicated.  Books on the subject warned about the questions the draft board would ask if one got that far.  The critical question would go something like “What would you do if you came home and found someone raping your wife, wouldn’t you kill him? Don’t you really only object to this police action and not killing?”

No, I would do everything in my power to take control of such a situation with limited force. I was clear then, as I am now,


I never got a hearing on my conscientious objector application.  

The doctor I saw every week for the months after my first deferment was a west sider like me with an office on West End Avenue.  He understood the issues faced by potential draftees and looked for an understanding of my mental health challenges at the time.

We started with an administration of the MMPI (the Minnesota MultiPhasic Personality Inventory) a very long psychological test which was partially invalidated by the fact that I had taken psychometrics as an undergraduate (.  

The test identified my overly self-critical trait and my intense emotions.  These were the topics of discussion in therapy sessions.  This was also the first time I took medicine in pill form.  I had never been able to swallow a pill but valium seemed to only be available that way.  I needed something to get through and illicit drugs were not my answer.

After many months of weekly visits the notice came from Uncle Sam to report to Whitehall Street.  

As I recall, I went directly to psychiatry with the letter from my psychiatrist in hand.  The doctor on duty seemed to read it carefully, asked a few questions I don’t remember and sent me away with a second 1Y; my ticket out of that particular hell.

3 thoughts on “Draft Two

  1. Another wonderfully woven tale, Ken. Of course, as it turned out, the ones who really needed analysis were already in uniform–and in office. My own 4F was well earned: I was so nervous at the draft physical that my blood pressure was off the scale. They sent me home.


  2. I’m so grateful you didn’t go. I’m so grateful you had an opportunity to start on a saner, more healing path. Thank goodness this was all available to you!!


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