There I was, just happily drifting along. No plan, no ambition. I started hearing things about Tonkin Gulf and had no clue as to how dramatically all that would be effecting me. I was just having fun with my friends, riding motorcycles, driving the Hosemobile, going to drag races, having girlfriends and all the fun things that guys that age do.
I had registered for the draft at age 18, but things were relatively peaceful at that time and the only war was a cold one. Getting drafted was not on my radar. The Cuban Missile Crisis, which was a result of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, had all occurred when I was in high school.
Six months after my high school graduation, I was working in the produce department of the super market, when one of the guys came in and said, "Kennedy's been shot." We turned on the radio and listened as that story developed.
That was a time when the media covered for many of the human failures of a sitting president and I wasn't aware of political considerations. I can remember feeling angry that someone would have shot our president. I also remember not liking Lyndon B. Johnson very much, but that was just a feeling without much knowledge or substance behind it. It was just a personal thing. He was not as appealing a human as JFK under my superficial scrutiny.
I think the nation had a hang over from that for several years. The country's mood was starting to slide down a slippery slope and would not recover for nearly 2 decades.
I got my draft notice around my 20th birthday. I had a couple months to get my ducks in a row, but I did not have that many ducks. I felt helpless that I was being torn out of my pleasant little life. Guys had not started trying to find ways to avoid the draft at this point. No one was going to Canada yet. With the background of military service on both sides of my family, I would not have made that choice under any circumstances. Frankly, I thought it was gutless, regardless of how you felt about the reasons behind the military conflict. However, at the time, I saw this as the worst thing that had happened to me in my 20 years.