Life's Curveballs

Drafted to Vietnam at 18 yrs old!

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Interviewee: My Father

My father is currently 68 years old. He was drafted to Vietnam when he was just 18. "A baby" as he described himself. This was his major life curveball.

Why was Vietnam a curveball?

Firstly, it was a war. A war that at 18 years old, barely driving for a year, my father was put in a position where he had to kill people. For the "good of our country" is how it was positioned to all the young soldiers. This event was a negative normative influence in my father's life for many reasons. He had to forego his anticipated entrance into college, he had to stop working (which he helped support his family at the time), in order to go to the army, and upon his return, his entire life and normative age-graded influences were disrupted.

Cohort Effects

Since this curveball is about a war, it lends itself to definitive cohort effects. It was 1965 when my father was drafted. Most of the world still didn't even know what the war was for (and still don't). The soldiers that had been drafted, left as heroes, but returned as criminals. In this particular cohort, let's call it the Vietnam cohort, soldiers became villains in the eyes of my father's fellow Americans. When he returned, he was frowned upon, looked down at, spat on and countless other inhumane acts impressed upon him. He was unable to find work, his hopes of going to college were washed away with the vanished possibilities that he was left with after the war. He was no longer a socially accepted human being. So he returned from the war thinking he would be welcomed with open arms, but instead was ridiculed for doing what his country asked him to do. Aside from that, he was struggling with the heartache of everything he had to do when he was in Vietnam, killing innocent people, his troop being killed/injured, watching his friends die. It is unfathomable to me...still...to think of my father going through such pain. A pain he still lives with to this day. My father was only five years older than my son is today, when he was drafted to the war. It is truly unthinkable.