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Vietnam War Draft Dodgers

February 28, 1988

I empathize with the feelings of the Vietnam War draft resisters. I am one of them, having actively avoided military service until I drew a high lottery number in 1969.

I was one of the lucky ones. As a student at Berkeley from 1964 to 1968, I had a lot of information about what was happening in Southeast Asia, and a lot of support for the personal choices I made. But I know where the guys in the article are coming from. You can hear it in their words, all the elements and undercurrents of feeling--the survivor's guilt, the moral pain, and the tortured sense of masculine duty. Aren't these the same undercurrents present, magnified a thousand times, in the pain and suffering of the combat veteran?

It's time we realized that all of us, draft dodger and combat vet alike, were degraded and debased by the Vietnam War. Let's remember we were only kids then, 18 to 22 years old. We did the best we knew how in a sick and impossible time. Let's not forget that this war was forced upon us by an older generation of men in politics and the military who never had to make the personal decision to sling the M-16 around their necks. Someone else had to think up body counts, napalm and defoliation. That was the real insanity.

We were a generation of youth who were forced to respond to this insanity with our lives on the line. We responded in fear, recklessly, with cowardice and heroism, sacrificing our lives, our careers, our sanity, our self-respect. We were divided outwardly against each other, and inwardly against ourselves.

RUSSELL HAMM

San Diego

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