Our moms had been best friends since kindergarten. They got married on the same day, a double wedding. Both got pregnant on their wedding night. Ralph’s birthday was August fifth, mine August eleventh. Next door neighbors, closer than any brothers.
As kids, we loved the war movies, especially the John Wayne ones. The Flying Tigers. They Were Expendable, Sands of Iwo Jima.
But then came our war. Vietnam. Jolene Frances’ brother came back missing an arm, face burned up like sausage. Billy Hill didn’t come back at all.
We wore peace buttons, watched the news.
Born six days apart. My draft number was 324. Ralph’s was 11.
I told him I’d go with him to Canada. We would go to college in Montreal, become rock journalists. We didn’t tell our moms.
But there at the border, Ralph changed his mind.
We took the bus down to Fargo to join the Marines together.
The Selective Service lottery drawing was held on December 1, 1969. This event determined the order of call for induction for registrants born between January 1, 1944, and December 31, 1950. Those with low numbers would be called for immediate induction to the armed service with likely deployment to Vietnam. There were 366 blue plastic capsules containing birth dates placed in a large glass container and drawn by hand to assign numbers to all men within the 18-26 age range. In 1968 and 1969 alone, more than 20,000 American troops died in Vietnam.