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Dodging the draft-1996

Mystery question: as you read this story, 

guess the life principles that are expressed. My answers are at the end.

It's my life

In February of 1966, I reached a realization that the sole reason for me to continue studying in college was to avoid the draft and the strong likelihood of being sent to fight in the Vietnam War. However, I was aware that even if I stayed in college longer to complete my degree, I would still be drafted into the army once I had graduated.


I had already made a firm decision that I would not let anyone dictate how I should spend my life by forcing me into killing people that I would have otherwise enjoyed sitting down and conversing with.

But what can I do?

I brainstormed all my options.

  • I could move to Canada. Many other young men were doing that and giving up their U.S. citizenship.

  • I could try to become a conscientious objector. But this involved documenting and proving that, because of my religious beliefs, I was morally prohibited from killing others. I didn't think I would be successful at convincing the authorities that this was true.

  • I could pretend to be gay. I wasn't very confident that I could pull that off either.

  • I could cut off a big toe, crippling myself to the extent that the military would disqualify me as medically unfit to serve.

  • I could join a reserve branch of the military, hoping that the reserves would not be called up because the war was so unpopular.


After discussing these options with few people, weighing the projected costs, benefits, and risks against each other (including the option of either being drafted or joining active duty in the military for at least two years), I decided that the reserve option was best for me.

Though there were several military reserve options available, I decided to join the Marine Corps Reserves, which was reputed to be "the best," but had the same time requirements as the others (six months of active duty and then five and a half years of one weekend per month and two weeks each summer).

Looking back, I feel that I made a good decision. The Marine Corps Reserves were never activated except for a few days in March of 1970 to deliver mail during a nationwide strike (I didn't have to kill anybody!). Joining the reserves serendipitously helped me find my first career as a computer software consultant. This was a fortuitous outcome as I had been struggling to decide on a career path since I was 12 years old. In fact, meeting the Marine Corps Reserve Commander as a Private first class-1967 was a defining moment in my life.

Underlying principles that guided my actions

Although I may not have had the words to express them clearly at that time, I was operating out of these principles.

My #1 job is to take care of myself.

Being aware of the following cognitive biases and making adjustments to compensate for them (see cognitive biases):

  • In-group favoritism

  • Herd behavior

  • Altruism bias

  • Looking-good bias

  • Short-term bias

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