Even though I was convinced that I should not cooperate with the Selective Service System, at the time of my 18th birthday, November 21, 1969, I reluctantly registered for the draft as required by law. I hadn’t yet come to the point where I had enough resolve to risk imprisonment. But the larger factor was that my parents strongly felt I should do alternative service as a conscientious objector instead. So I was very unhappy during Christmas break at home in Marshalltown.
I didn’t handle what happened next very well, as the following shows. I’d rather edit it a little so I wouldn’t look quite so inept, but leaving it like it is shows how difficult things were then. I knew I couldn’t return to Scattergood until I had returned my draft card. So following is the unedited version.
Journal, January 5, 1970, Scattergood Friends School
“I turned in my draft card Friday morning, January 2, 1970. I knew neither of my parents approved at all, but wasn’t prepared for what happened. Earlier in the week I had talked to Dad, telling him that’s what I thought I should do. He didn’t say much except that I knew he strongly disapproved, but I thought he told me that he thought he was standing in my way and I should do what I thought was right. I didn’t tell him the day I was going to do it, but thought he knew that I was going to do it.
That morning Mom took me uptown. She knew I had the card and I told her I was going to turn it in. She told me she didn’t want me to, but I told her I was going to. After that, as I recall, she didn’t say anything but looked unhappy. I took that to mean that she didn’t approve, but knew I was going to do it.
Well, I stood outside in the cold and snow for about 5 minutes and finally went in. I told the secretary I was going to turn in my draft card. She told me I would have to see the clerk, Helen Landon, so I sat down and waited. The secretary asked me if I had requested form 150 and if I had filled it out and I told her I had.
I went into the clerk’s office. She was a pleasant person, having helped me fill out form 100 earlier and given me form 150. (note: I assume form 100 was the registration form, and 150 the application for conscientious objector status). I told her I was turning in my draft card. She asked me if I had given it enough serious thought, to which I replied affirmatively. She said it had to be my decision, and then asked if I wasn’t still in high school. I told her I was. She said she would look up the regulations and write to me.
Everyone at home was very upset. Mom thought she had told me not to do it, and Dad was upset because he thought I hadn’t told him I was going to, which is really right. I told him I thought that was what I should do.
The next day they wanted me to try to get it back, saying they could accept it better in a year, feeling I would be more mature and no longer under the influence of Scattergood. I was shaken by the whole thing and, to spare their feelings, agreed to try to get it back. I don’t know what has happened, yet.”
End of Journal entry.
I read something recently about teenagers being clueless about the magnitude of the repercussions of some of their decisions. That was sure true here. I want to emphasize my parents were concerned for me, and were convinced I didn’t realize the seriousness of what I wanted to do. I had no doubt by this time what the right thing to do was, but was also afraid of the probable consequences. But I knew I could return my draft card at any time (assuming it was returned to me this time). At any rate, things were put on hold as we waited either until I was called to perform alternative service, or there were consequences from turning the card in this time. It was looking like I might be one of the few people to turn in their draft card twice.