Bone Spurs and Flat Feet

My draft status and DJT’s.

This recent post on the CNN website brought back memories of the strange beginning to my illustrious military career.

I took my pre-induction physical in October of 1970, the first year of the lottery. My exam took place in Kansas City. Since procedures varied greatly from region to region, I can only speculate about what the physicals were like in other regions.

When I arrived for the physical, I was surprised by the appearance of about half of the guys sitting in the waiting area with me. Each bore an easily recognizable item, and everyone who bore that item seemed to flunk the exam. Furthermore, everyone who did not have one seemed to pass. Can you guess what it was?


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What did you guess? A crutch, a cane, a seeing-eye dog? No, the item was a briefcase. The people who failed the physical uniformly came prepared to prove that they suffered from some disqualifying condition. Those who depended upon the army doctors to discover their maladies were disappointed.

The exam itself was perfunctory. I suppose that the doctor would have noticed if one of us was paraplegic or missing some limbs, but less obvious conditions did not interest him much. I was anticipating the check for flat feet that is mentioned in the above article. My footprints looked like those of a duck with toes. Here is how the doc checked us for flat feet (and maybe bone spurs). The whole group of us (dressed only in underwear) were told to face away from the doctor and toward the wall. He then issued the following commands: “Right foot up, left, OK.” Unless you practice for a week, you will not be able to say that as fast as he did. At least half of the guys never raised either foot.

It would have been a joke for them to exclude me for my feet. I have walked long distances over rough terrain many times, and my feet never bothered me much.

One thing that the people at the physical were very interested in was detecting color blindness. This was done one-on-one and lasted at least fifteen minutes. Some people were, in fact, determined to have that defect. I don’t remember that that exempted them, but it probably limited their duty assignments.

Donald Trump did not go through this process. He has said that he made himself eligible for the draft in 1970 because of his extremely high number. His was 356; mine was 154. You only had to survive one lottery. Guys with his number were not drafted in 1970. He was safe forever.

Donald Trump graduated from college in 1968, two years before I did. Somehow he had convinced his draft board to grant him a 1-Y status for the year and a half after his student deferment ran out based on alleged bone spurs on his heels. Whenever he has been asked about how exactly he managed to obtain this deferment, his answers have been evasive.

I clearly remember that plenty of doctors in those days were willing to help my generation avoid the draft, and plenty of guys did extraordinary things to create or mimic conditions that would get them excluded. I knew several perfectly healthy young men in both groups.

The definition of 1-Y status is “Registrant qualified for service only in time of war or national emergency.” If you are thinking that the War in Vietnam was definitely a war, you have not read your constitution lately. Only Congress can declare war, and it has not done so since 1941.