A date with destiny
I was finishing my first year as a police officer in Tulsa and had recently gotten married when I received my letter from Uncle Sam. It was the summer of 1968, one of the most active and violent years of the Vietnam War and he thought it was my time to serve. I had used student deferments for four years while I attended the University of Arkansas but those were no longer in effect since I wasnít a student any longer. So, on a bright weekday morning, I along with 50 or 60 other souls boarded a Greyhound bus and rode down to Oklahoma City to take our physicals.
I along with practically everyone else on the bus didnít want to go to Vietnam because of the nature of the war and the fact that scores of American servicemen were being killed every day. But, on the other hand, it never entered my mind to do what many people were doing and that was to protest, burn their draft cards or escape to Canada. I wasnít raised that way and if it was my time to go, it was my time to go.
Because of a receding hairline I had all the way back to junior high school, Iíve always looked older than I was and going through the physical exam brought that out again. Several doctors mentioned that the government had waited a long time to get me which simply wasnít true. I had joined the police department as soon as I turned 21 so I wasnít much older than the other guys going through the same process I was. I remember before starting the physical examinations, a top sergeant was about to administer a written exam for all of us and his words have always stayed with me. He said there had always been a rumor that if you flunked the test, the army would reject you and he wanted us to know that simply wasnít true. He said the test was given to tell the army what our strong suits and weak suits were so they could place us appropriately once boot camp was over. He concluded by saying that if any of us had thoughts of doing poorly on purpose, it would result in us getting some of the worst jobs the army had to offer. That changed the attitude of many young men who were there.
After the exam, we lined up and went through station after station of doctors checking for different physical things that might disqualify us. I had developed a rash behind both knees while playing football in high school and for some reason they rash wouldnít go away. I had been to a couple of skin specialists who couldnít identify the nature of the problem so the cause was unknown as I went through my physical. As luck or fate would have it, because I had an undiagnosed skin condition, I was granted a temporary physical deferment and was allowed to return to Tulsa. This was during a period of time where passing the tests the doctors administered meant you went right into the military without having a chance to return home and tell your loved ones good-bye. The bus we took was full on the way to Oklahoma City but only five of us made the return trip to Tulsa. I went directly to my parentsí house where my grandmother also was and as I opened the front door, she looked up at me with the most angelic look on her face and stated that they didnít take me did they. When I told her no, she said she knew they wouldnít because she had been praying and fasting ever since I got my letter that they wouldnít. However, I only received a 2S deferment instead of a 4F so I was supposed to be re-examined in six months to see if my physical condition had changed. As it
turned out, the irritations behind my knees went away about a week after returning home from my physical and never returned. And I was never called back to take a second physical exam.
Iíve thought a lot about that over the years. My grandmother was a lot more religious that I or anyone else in my family was and she was convinced that it was God answering her prayers. I chose to take a more practical approach by assuming that there were other more important things for me to do with my life than to fight and perhaps die in a war that most of us didnít know why we were in it to begin with.
Regardless of the reason, I served my time on the police department instead of the war department and am still here as a thorn in the sides of many of you.
Maybe that was my calling all along.