John goes for Draft Physical

John goes for Draft Physical

In August of 1966, I received a letter from President Johnson by way of the Salem County, NJ. draft board ( office of selective service ). I was invited to meet them in Salem, NJ for a trip to Newark, NJ to see if I was fit for service in the military. It's important to note at this point that it wasn't optional to take the physical. So, I showed up bright and early. There were between 80-100 of us and two busses pulled up for our transport. I was seated next to a guy from Woodstown, NJ whom I hadn't ever met and whose name is now lost in time, but we were the two oldest guys there, since we had both recently graduated from college. His folder had a large number 1⃣ on it and mine a 2⃣ which ( since our names weren't first alphabetically ) had to mean our position in the draft. UGH! Oh, did I tell you that we were currently fighting in Vietnam?

John Goes for Draft Physical

Anyway, we were in the front portion of the bus, chatting, etc. The bus stopped half way to Newark ( at one of the rest stops in the NJ Turnpike ) for bathroom breaks and snacks. 

Once we got back on, it became obvious that the guys in the back third of the bus had been sharing several bottles of liquor and had probably gotten soda mixers at the stop. 

They began to get boisterous and actually destroying seats and overhead racks on the bus. The driver was ineffectual and even appeared to be afraid of them. When we got to the processing center, the military folks took over and restored some order. They informed us that we couldn't leave the building due to our behavior on the bus. 

I had already been to this building to test for Air Force Officer training and had taken this physical already and taken a series of fairly difficult tests. Anyway, after basic examination, you know temperature, blood pressure, and so on, we were taken into the exam room.

The test was a joke, the questions were very simple and and there were only 100 of them. I was finished in 10 minutes and signaled the sergeant that I was done. I asked to leave the room and was told I had to stay for the entire hour. I balked and he called a Lieutenant over and the officer said he would grade it on the spot and if I hadn't passed I was staying. I got one wrong and left the room. 

It was now lunch time and I hadn't brought anything since I thought we could go out to one of the many lunch rooms nearby. I decided the "no leave rule" was unfair and arbitrary, so I left, went across the street to a bar and had a beer and a sandwich. Upon reentering the facility, the sergeant in charge of us spotted me and began to berate me for failing to obey orders. (By this time, he was more than a bit upset with me). I informed him that he had no authority to issue orders and the rule punishing all of us on two busses for the excesses of a few guys on one of them was not valid. Anyway, the rest of the physical went okay and now it was time to go home. 

The guys on the back of the bus were worse this time and when we stopped at the rest stop, our driver informed us that no one was getting off of our bus. The guy next to me and I informed him that we had to go to the bathroom and he needed to let us go. So, he said, "Okay, but you can't buy any snacks". Well, it would be hard to believe but in those days, I wasn't real keen on authority (especially misplaced). So, I bought a drink and a pack of crackers. The driver was upset and said "I told you not..." To which I replied he was not in charge of me except to my behavior on the bus which had been respectful and obedient to the bus rules. 

For the remainder of the trip, we were shadowed by two troopers of the NJ state police. And, when we arrived in Salem, the police got on our bus and informed us we were all going to the jailhouse for processing. At this point, the guy next to me exploded, demanding to know on what authority did they have that right. We were told that the bus driver was issuing a complaint against all of us. He and I then explained to the police that the trouble was only in back third of bus and then only about five guys and that the driver knew this and was afraid of them. When asked if this were true, he driver had to admit it was, but he added that I didn't obey his orders and should be included. Once I told the policemen that my crime was buying a snack at the rest stop, I was also let go. 

We were pretty sure the trouble makers were trying to get police records so they couldn't be drafted into the service. That night in court, the judge refused to convict them, but allowed them to be immediately drafted by the draft board. 

Davdan @ 2008-2018