Conscientious objector, Vietnam War
Kelley Reid is a member of Wellingborough Quaker Meeting. He has lived in Britain since 1997 when he moved to London from Seattle, Washington, USA to take a job at the American School in London. He now lives in a small Northamptonshire village with his wife Julie.
As my eighteenth birthday approached in February 1968, I received a notice from the draft board requesting my registration for the draft. I was living in Chicago, Illinois, at the time and my country was at war.
Knowing I would receive a student deferment to attend university the following autumn, and being fairly conservative in my political views (in keeping with those of my father), I registered without a great deal of soul-searching.
However, as with many of us coming of age during the Vietnam era, I soon began deepening my awareness of the conflict. This, in turn, led me to other questions about myself and my place in the world. I began to think more deeply about peace, social justice and personal responsibility. And I began to rethink my registration for the draft. In this search I discovered a number of supportive resources, including the American Friends Service Committee and the Bahai Faith, actually becoming a Bahai in 1969.
As a Bahai, I requested, and received, a change in my status, becoming a conscientious objector, but remaining eligible for the draft. Had I been drafted, I would have served as a medic or in some other capacity where I didn’t bear arms.
However in 1970 I gave up my student deferment and became part of the first lottery of the Vietnam conflict. I remember well the night they drew birthdays out of a barrel, determining who would be called when, from first to three hundred and sixty fifth. My number was something like two hundred and ten. That year the war machine only needed young men up to the number two hundred and six. And, as the war was beginning to wind down, I was never drafted.