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Fighting to Live THE COMPLEXITIES OF SERVING YOUR COUNTRY
My dad chose the wrong time to flunk out of college.
order for the strikes that his fellow servicemen would fire into the combat zone. It was a dangerous job; soldiers in this position were heavily targeted. His worst nightmare was about to become reality, and to this day, I can’t imagine what must have been running through his mind.
Just as the Vietnam War draft was beginning in 1969, my dad flunked out of the University of Georgia. He received his draft notice in the mail shortly after because he was no longer protected from service. Panicked, my father struck a deal with a local recruiter, in which he agreed to join the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) while finishing the last few semesters he had left at the University of Georgia. After he graduated, he would enlist as a lieutenant. Now, my father wasn’t unfamiliar with military service. His father and uncle had both served in World War II, and his uncle also served in World War I. He even started college at a military school. My dad understood what it took to be in the military, and he wasn’t unfamiliar with the sacrifice. It just wasn’t the life he wanted for himself, and he struck this deal thinking what many people thought at the time: There’s no way Vietnam could last that long.
But there was some luck on my dad’s side.
Throughout the war, my dad was stationed at Fort Sill in Oklahoma and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where he trained while the last years of the war waged on. I know he was thankful to have never seen any combat during his active and reserve duties, but I also know that among his fears and worries, he gleaned a few lessons. He always had respect for the chain of command, and his discipline carried him far in the courtroom and in building his practice. When I was in college at Ole Miss, I told him I was going to enroll in the National Guard. This was right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks had ravaged our country, and I felt compelled to serve. I had even considered working in the legal arena within the military because this gave law students direct access to practicing in a real courtroom. But my dad didn’t want me to take that plunge into the military. The years he spent doing all he could to avoid combat, and seeing soldiers return from Vietnam, left him with a more realistic understanding of what combat entails.
Instead, the war was just getting cranked up.
As promised, my father enlisted in the Army and requested an artillery division to hopefully avoid combat. However, the Army assigned my dad to the artillery division as an foreign observer, which was the one position in his division that was assigned to an infantry unit. His role would be to call up an
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