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Published January 21, 2020

THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT

When the draft was for real

I got drafted right after landing a job at the Houston Post

By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin

The draft is back…not in reality but in the news.

As the Iran crisis escalated, young men were so anxious about the draft they crashed the website for the Selective Service System, the agency that maintains a database of Americans eligible for a potential draft.

Making matters worse, fraudulent text messages of unknown origin circulated ordering recipients to report for “immediate departure to Iran.” The draft has not been in effect since 1973.

I received a draft notice in 1970. It wasn’t fake.

The events surrounding my being drafted illustrate that no amount of planning can guarantee ow life will come at you.

I was working on a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in 1969 with every intention of eventually getting a job near my California hometown. Vietnam wasn’t in my career plan.

Truthfully, the only reason I was in school was to avoid the draft. Then the government instituted the lottery.

Lottery night I was working as a scorekeeper at a basketball game. I remember it well because Missouri was playing Indiana with Bobby Knight, the legendary coach.

The only number I remember from the game is my lottery number. During the game, I got a call from friends at a lottery-watch party telling me the bad news. My number was 40.

I waited to hear from Uncle Sam. Months passed, and I noticed friends with higher numbers were drafted. I started believing the Army didn’t want me.

Late one night I was studying at the journalism school when a phone rang. I happened to be nearest to the phone so I picked it up. It was the assistant managing editor of the Houston Post, Kuyk Logan, and he was looking to hire a young copy editor.

Frustrated by grad school and confident I wasn’t going to be drafted, I told Kuyk I was just what he was looking for.

That weekend I flew to Houston. When Kuyk asked about my draft status, I hedged, saying it wouldn’t be a problem. I was offered the job.

I stayed around to check out the Astrodome on Sunday and flew back to Missouri on Monday.

I opened my mailbox Monday, and there it was … my draft notice. The notice had been sent to my parents’ address in California. They forwarded it but, by the time I received it, I only had a few days to report for duty in Los Angeles.

With great trepidation, I called Kuyk and gave him the news, then headed West.

I was in such a hurry that I was stopped for speeding outside Snowflake, Az. The officer let me off when I told him I was hurrying to report for Army duty.

Within days I was at basic training at Fort Ord. A year and a half after that, I was in Vietnam with my Army stint about over, a pregnant wife back home and no job prospects.

As a last resort, I wrote Kuyk and asked if he had any openings. I wasn’t optimistic. I figured he was mad that I hadn’t been totally honest about the draft.

To my surprise, Kuyk wrote that he had kept that original job open. It was still mine.

I found out later that Kuyk was a colonel in the Army Reserve. He told me he respected my military service more than he disliked my lack of candor.

Kuyk died a couple of years ago, and American flags were passed out at the funeral, and the Stars and Stripes was played.

I was lucky to have picked up the phone that night. Lucky that Kuyk was the guy on the other end. And lucky to have ended up in the Houston area.

Never did make it back to California.

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)