I was in and out of college for five and a half years and often just a few steps ahead of the draft board. They wanted me to report to Wilkes-Barre, PA for a physical, but I kept postponing it.
One day, I was making a movie with some friends in a local park. I had to slide down a waterfall carrying my dog, “Sniffer,” and then walk through a stream. I stepped on a concealed broken bottle, which nearly passed through my foot, and it took 54 stitches to close the wound.
As soon as I got home from the hospital, I contacted the Federal marshal and said I was ready for my physical, but unfortunately Uncle Sam didn’t want me just then. I spent months using a wheelchair and crutches and swallowing Darvon painkiller capsules like popcorn.
I was scheduled for a pre-induction exam nearly six months later and I hoped the foot would not heal too quickly. By the time I had to report to Wilkes-Barre, I was actually in pretty good shape and walking unassisted, but I used the crutches and limped and groaned and tried to look like I was in agony.
The Army’s doctor was sharp. After looking up my asshole, he closely examined the scar on my foot and even checked my armpits for crutch calluses, but I did successfully fail my physical.
I also failed the mechanical aptitude test because I didn’t know enough about carburetors, and I confessed to being a member of some international friendship league that labeled me as an Unwitting Dupe of the International Communist Conspiracy.
The final verdict was that if I really wanted to serve my country and had some political pull, I just might get an assignment as an orderly in a war zone hospital.
I didn’t pursue this option because I saw no reason to kill Viet Cong or haul bedpans for people who did. And, compared to Saigon, even Bethlehem looked good.