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.


What Pegman Saw


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.


Add Yours
  1. Alicia Jamtaas

    I’m there! My boyfriend was 19, I was 16. His draft number was 27 (I think). He did come back….
    You relayed those times so well. So many young men were talking about going to Canada. How? When? Then time ran out.

  2. Lynn Love

    I know it was done to be as fair as possible, but deciding a man’s fate on a lottery seems too flippant for words. Wonderfully written, Josh. I now really want to know, after sharing so much, did they share the same fate in battle?

  3. J Hardy Carroll

    My assumption is the narrator survived and his friend did not. I didn’t want to so much as say that but rather imply it by a certain sadness in the writing. Thanks for reading

  4. rochellewisoff

    Dear Josh,

    I’m crestfallen as I read your answer to Lynn. I’d like to think the two came home together. But Ralph not coming back was well implied. Beautifully tragic and reminder of a time I remember all too well.



    • J Hardy Carroll

      I feel that in these times especially it’s crucial to weigh the costs of war instead of thinking John Wayne movies were real. Thanks for reading and contributing!

  5. Mike Fuller Author

    # 56. My senior year of college was ’72 to ’73. My 2S deferment would end in June. Two things happened that summer. Nixon pulled all the troops out and the draft ended. The war went on until ’75 but we sat it out. I still think about it but for once in my life the timing worked out. It didn’t for a lot of kids my age.

  6. Oliana

    Very moving story. I’m from Montreal and I do remember during my college days, walking downtown meeting several Americans, so young far from their family. Beautifully written.

  7. James

    I turned 18 in 1972. Although I didn’t know it at the time, if I’d been drafted, I wouldn’t have gone to Vietnam. A vet told me that decades later. That said, I did have a son who enlisted in the Marine Corps. Two deployments and he came back from both.

  8. Dahlia

    Appreciate the footnote without which i wouldnt have quite got the full picture. That said the story covers such a wide range of topics – I especially liked the contrast of the fascination with war movies and the real war. I loved the title of the story too – misleading with chilling implications.

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