Noilly Prattle: Looking Back: 22 – Transition

Monday, February 2, 2015

Looking Back: 22 – Transition

     In a way I had the “good” fortune of being sandwiched between two wars (Korean and Vietnamese) so that my expenses-paid-see-the-world and draft-avoidance-inspired decision to join the Navy (I couldn't see myself crawling through the mud holding an AK-47 over my head) in 1959 was by and large “peacetime” service (except for the major annoyance of the Cuban Missile Crisis when my long-awaited release from active duty was suspended for the duration). There was no GI Bill for Tuition Assistance for 'tweeners' when I was released (thankfully on schedule and sans nuclear holocaust) from active duty in 1962. I paid the tuition for my classes at Worcester Junior College out of my own pocket. Tuition costs hadn't yet gone through the roof in those days.

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
        A GI Bill for Tuition Assistance for my category was passed by Congress during my third year attending WJC. If I could get accepted at an approved four-year institution it would be possible to quit working and attend full time for a couple of years. I applied to Northeastern University in Boston and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. UMass had the double advantage of accepting all 54 of my junior college credits plus a Massachusetts State living allowance assistance for veterans. All systems were go for being able to earn a Bachelors Degree within two years, so I quit my job at Colonial Press and headed for Amherst in the Fall of 1967.

        I was some five years older than most of my classmates, most of whom had entered university right out of high school. Having had prior military service when I matriculated I was not directly threatened with the military draft that was disrupting the lives of many of the young males at the university. By then the full horror of the daily body counts on television, both Vietnamese and American, was in abundant evidence. Students were becoming radicalized, joining the anti-war movement, demonstrating with sit-ins and some taking the desperate measure of going to Canada to avoid the draft. Still others felt it their patriotic duty to support the war. Campus splits began to show in wearing apparel, music preferences, preferred forms of entertainment and intoxicants. You couldn't be on campus in that time and remain on the fence. Perhaps only in sympathy and inclination, but you felt compelled to lean one way or the other. For me it was a no-brainer, although not personally threatened by the draft, my sympathies lay with those who were and who opposed the war on moral, not ideological, grounds. Sadly, the disastrous and enduring results of that ill-starred conflict continue to foment global chaos and erode the fabric of our society in violence and fear today, but I do not intend to dwell on that.

To be continued...

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