When I made the decision to enter private practice right out of internship, it was with the expectation that I would be drafted into military service, probably within a year. After all, I had accrued 9 years of deferral from the draft, and the Vietnam War was heating up.
Actually, it was 3 ½ years later, in the dead of the New Jersey winter, when I received the telegram. It began with the word “GREETINGS,” as if it were a belated Christmas card. It informed me that I must report to Fort Dix in 14 days to be inducted into the US Army, unless I received a commission as an officer before that date.
The timing of my draft notice was not much of a surprise. One of my patients was on the local draft board, and he gave me periodic updates without revealing any military secrets, like: “Doc, at your age with three children you really don’t have to be worried about being called up.” Then, late in 1965 his tone changed: “Doc, you’re sitting on the fence.”
Since I was so certain that I would be entering service, I had looked into each of the branches, and early decided to seek a commission in the US Navy. I aspired to eventually seek a Family Practice residency at Bethesda Naval Hospital, as I held it in high regard. I had also considered a civilian residency at a VA hospital that might permit me to continue moonlighting in my private practice, but one of my colleagues tried it and had to give it up because of the stress and low pay.
An advantage of joining the Navy would be better pay as an active duty officer, if I could successfully compete for a residency after putting in my “draft time.” Therefore, I completed an application for a commission in the Naval Medical Corps and submitted it.
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