The National Football League draft is coming up May 8. I have experience with the draft, but it doesn’t have anything to do with football. After I graduated from high school in 1964 I entered the seminary. Vietnam was heating up and most of my male classmates were soon drafted. I didn’t know much about the Vietnam conflict but missing it made me feel like a slacker. I mistakenly likened Vietnam to WWII and believed I should be there with my buddies; you know, the new Greatest Generation.
Being a Divinity student, I was classified as “4-D.” Three of my classmates came back shot up. None was killed, but another was pelted with Agent Orange enough that the VA awarded his widow money after he died from cancer. The three guys who were shot are dead now, two from alcoholism and one from a heart ailment.
As college ended, my opinion of Vietnam changed. It was a boondoggle. The government wasn’t letting the military run the war. When I left the seminary in 1969 I didn’t want anything to do with Vietnam. I didn’t want to be a pawn on some politician’s chess board. I was soon classified “1-A.”
I joined the Flint police. The Flint Draft Board had a policy where they didn’t draft Flint officers. In December, 1970, I joined the Chula Vista Police and thought I was okay. After a year I was notified I had to report for a draft physical. Chief Bill Winters wrote a letter and I thought things were in hand. My physical was delayed.
I got married in May of 1972 and received another notice to report for a physical. I personally went to the draft board to tell them I was a police officer. There, I learned the facts of life. The nice lady told me that no matter where you go, you retain your original draft board, for me, Flint, Michigan.
She said Flint’s policy was not to draft Flint cops. Because I was in Chula Vista, Flint no longer cared.
So, here I was, recently married and draftable. I did have a knee injury from football that left a bone fragment floating around my knee. When Chula Vista hired me they documented the injury. The fragment would sometimes go under my knee cap preventing me from straightening my leg. I had the condition so long I knew how to control it. When I played ball I wrapped the knee to keep the fragment in place.
I left on a Greyhound for the overnight trip to Los Angeles with a bus full of 18-year-olds, many of whom who smoked marijuana during the ride.
In L.A., I told the doctors of the knee injury. They sent me to the orthopedist’s office where I sat in the waiting room from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. No doctor appeared. They told me to return to the hotel where my room stay was extended.
They gave me more meal chits for the restaurant. I had brought only one change of clothes. When I told my wife of the unexpected stay, she laughed and told me to wear my underwear inside the next day. 'The next day I sat in the ortho office again from 9 a.m. to 5 p.. No doctor appeared. They extended my hotel stay and gave me more meal chits. I had already worn my underwear inside out one day so I wore my original underwear from the first day inside out. My wife thought this was hilarious and told all of her girlfriends.
The next day around two a doctor arrived to examine my knee. With a half-smile he said, “Tom, your knee can be fixed easily. But, we won’t do it. If you get that thing taken out we would love to have you, but we can’t take you with it.” I gave him a snappy salute and said, “Thank you, Captain. We’ll be in touch.”
Dr. Louis Lurie fixed my knee about ten years later with a 15-minute outpatient operation. My wife still loves to tell about my “Inside-Out” adventure.
Basinski is a retired Chula Vista police officer.