Orono, MN, USA
In 1963, as a freshman at a military high school in St. Paul, I was instructed in military map reading. We used topographical maps of Vietnam and most of us didn't know where on earth the country was even located. Our teachers, active duty Army persons, told us to get ready for being involved in the conflict and it went right over our heads. When our school's first casualty of the war was announced two years later, it started to sink in. I enlisted in the National Guard after high school and continued my education at the University of Minnesota. I had considerable anxiety about the perception by many others that college and the National Guard meant "draft dodging." Those "push-pull" feelings were really magnified when I was called to participate in protecting school property during several days of war protests at the University of Minnesota. Facing protesting classmates with a weapon was a sickening feeling. The possibility of shooting someone who was protesting the shooting going on in Vietnam seemed so absurd. I basically felt I was doing the right thing for me but I also had a deep-seated suspicion about the war's validity. I wound up staying with the Guard and then the Army Reserves until retiring just before Desert Storm. I was reactivated for Desert Storm and felt that it was "the gods" getting even with me for not going to Vietnam 25 years earlier. While involved with the military, I always worked to convince myself that being a medic was somehow not contributing to the ugly features of war-making other combat specialties are trained for. I know now that's a rather phoney way of looking at it. I miss my high school friends who died in Vietnam and I greatly respect those who didn't resist going to serve. I also now feel I understand those who did resist (peacefully).