Today is Pearl Harbor Day and, coincidentally, Kathy and I will visit Pearl Harbor while on Oahu for the X-Mas vacation. Also coincidentally, Dec. 7 is the day (in 1963) that I received my 4F draft classification. A “4F” meant that I was unsuitable for military service.
Here’s the story of how that came about. At the age of 23, I had spent the summer of 1963 climbing in the Alps with my friend David Hiser and, come the Fall, we had moved in with David’s sister and husband, who were in the military and stationed in Mainz, Germany. That Fall, my New York draft board informed me that I must arrange for a pre-induction physical at the Army base. I considered the question of allowing myself to be drafted – or not – to be a personal challenge of the greatest magnitude. My response was to dedicate considerable time cogitating about it, which included reading a lot of philosophy. After a period of weeks, I concluded that I was unwilling to be drafted. The day arrived, and I reported to the Army base. There I was given a questionnaire to fill out. I checked “yes” to the following items: drug use, homosexual activity and severe depression. This got me an interview with the psychiatrist, who I told the following: “That there was some truth in all the “yes” answers, but the real point was that I was convinced that I would go nuts under the conditions that would be imposed upon me, and probably shoot my commanding officer the minute they put a gun in my hands. Because of my certainty concerning this development, I was unwilling to be inducted. I was, therefore, leaving for Israel the very next day, and if I was classified 1A (suitable for service), I would relinquish my American citizenship and become an Israeli, through the law of return”. The shrink asked me a few questions about my background and quickly came to the conclusion that I was, indeed, unfit for the service. He diagnosed me as “pre-psychotic” and classified me as 4F. This characterization made perfect sense to me, and I thanked the Dr. He, of course, suggested that I seek professional help, to which I responded that I would send him a postcard from Israel.
David and I left for points south the very next day. He spent the winter on Crete, and I in Israel. My life thereafter, as a certified “pre-psychotic”, is another story (or two), although I am happy to confirm that I have yet to make the transition from “pre-psychotic” to full-fledged psychosis. I have my wife Kathy and Paxil to thank for that.