Way back in time, when the Earth was still cool, I was in the U.S. Army. I was drafted and served my two years, mostly as a company clerk. My efforts to avoid getting drafted — claiming that my earlier bout with kidney stones made me ineligible — were in vain.
In retrospect, I should have found a friendly doctor who would attest that I had bone spurs like President Donald Trump did.
In order to avoid the draft, I considered and rejected going to Canada — too cold. Besides, I did not want to be categorized as a “draft evader.” Going to Canada to evade the draft was also a felonious offense.
In any event, I went up to the Chicago recruitment center, got sworn in and took a long train ride down to Fort Knox.
After eight weeks of “training,” which was designed to break my spirit and make me respond to orders without question, I was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia, to receive additional training as a communications specialist. This mostly involved learning Morse Code, how to operate a field radio and how to erect an enormous antenna.
After this, and after a 30-day leave, I was on orders to report to Fort Huachuca, originally an outpost guarding against an invasion from Mexico.
In spite of my assertion that I was a certified X-ray technician, I ended up as a company clerk. The Army, as it turned out, had plenty of X-ray personnel and did not need or want any more. I got the role as company clerk mostly because I used all fingers to type. Because of a shortage of personnel, I was also the supply clerk, the education clerk and a bunch of other clerk things that I hardly even remember.
So, as a reluctant draftee, I spent my two years in the Army and got out with an honorable discharge and an expert marksman pin.
And because I was not killed, by the terms of the article on President Trump in the Atlantic magazine, I was not a “loser.”
Further, I did not get sent to Vietnam (the Army required, to the best of my memory, 13 months of service remaining. I did not have that, and in my mandatory end-of-service briefing, I declined to re-up).
So, by the same terms in the Atlantic article, I was not a “sucker.”
Being neither a loser nor a sucker, what did that make me? A reluctant draftee.
The basic training at Fort Knox did not break my somewhat rebellious spirit, and when given an order that I thought was stupid, I would ask why. That was not greeted with enthusiasm by sergeants or officers.
But in today’s Army, comprised entirely of recruits — people who chose to be there — orders are not questioned. When the sergeant says, “Jump,” the recruit says, “How high?” on the way up.
Maybe I was treated differently than other draftees because of my role as company clerk. The first sergeant to whom I reported did not want to have anything to do with administration. The company commander was an Army pilot and, at that time, was required to fly a number (I don’t remember how many) of hours per month in order to keep up his flight status.
Needless to say, he had little interest in being the company commander; he just wanted to fly. Both the first sergeant and the company commander told me that they would sign whatever I put on their desks, and if anything went wrong, I would end up in the stockade. Never happened.
So, in 1966, my Army service was complete. I got out, not having been killed or sent to Vietnam. By those measures, I was neither a loser nor a sucker.