When I was about to graduate from High School, at about the same time Vietnam was gearing up, I was one of the few guys in my high school graduating class of ’65 that considered enlisting into the Marine Corps.

I had another motivation about enlisting because of the fact back in the late 50′ and 60’s that I had a fascination with fireworks. Back in the 60’s we really had access to all kinds of big-bang types of fireworks, in every ‘form’ imaginable, and I figured that enlisting to go to Vietnam would be an experience where ‘fireworks’ on steroids was an everyday  event…


To make a long story short, when I walked into the Marine recruiting center near my high school, I walked toward the recruiter and using usual hand animation without any emphasis on my hand, I said, “…what can you tell me about enlisting?”

I mean, I had no idea they wouldn’t allow me to enlist because of a simple birth defect.

The absolutely FIRST words that came out of his mouth were, “…we can’t take you…”.

Now this baffled me because I thought how could he even know anything about me…?

So, I asked him what I was thinking and his straight to the bottom line response was “…You don’t have a trigger finger, you can’t kill anybody…!”.

(Note: This was the actual statement the recruiter made…!)

I was disheartened and I’d have to admit a little bit discouraged.

So, my immediate response was (naturally) a (stupid) question; “…So, then if I could kill somebody, then can I go…?”

Marine, “….no…”

It was at this moment I even offered to be a volunteer to be a decoy… (I really did).uncle sam

I left disappointed… thinking, now what am I going to do. I suppose I should go to college ‘cause I couldn’t think of anything else to do. So, I did. I went to college.

My family lived in the metropolitan Chicago area and I went to a college in Southern Minnesota. I discovered that virtually every guy I knew at college was attempting to hide from the draft board, every guy but me.

During my mid sophomore year in college I received my draft notice. The ‘notice‘ was, I believe, the traditional ’60-day’ come down for your physical draft notice.

Upon receipt of this ominous invitation, I called them up from college and asked the question that originated and remained with me from the day the Marine Corps turned me down.

I said in a lame attempt to reinforce my position, “…How come when I wanted to enlist you wouldn’t take me, but now that I’m in college,  I’m getting good grades, just bought a car (1959 Plymouth Grand Fury), fireworks were really just for kids… and I think I have a girlfriend, so now you want to draft me…?”

“…Really… I’m just too busy right now…”

I then finished my defense sentence by saying, “Sorry, you had your chance and that presently I wasn’t interested in the military anymore…”

The person handling my call happened to be curious and did ask me ‘why I could not enlist’.

So, I responded with detail about the birth defect I had and that I did not have, among other fingers, a trigger finger that could kill people. I even added to my position by saying that I had also offered to be a decoy, but there was neither interest nor any sense of humor as well.

Well, this simple phone call wasn’t going to do it, I had to report if for nothing else, the actual Draft Board PHYSICAL EXAM…

Then I asked if it would be possible and more convenient for us both, if the ‘family’ doctor would write a letter defining my unique feature and would that suffice for the draft board…?

The response was affirmative and they gave me the mailing address.

docMy next response was to contact my family doctor, Dr. Blakeman, so I called him and after conveying the nature of the call and his knowing me from past medical interactions, he would be happy to write the appropriate letter. That was a good thing; problem now was he was asking me for a $14.00 fee to write his letter.

Now, here’s the next problem it presents to me. I was paying my way through college and also paying for my car, all the while going to college working part-time 18+ hours a week as a welder earning about $1.40 an hour. (This was 1967-68). Yikes, I would have to work an entire day just to pay the doctor for his one page letter.


It so happens that during this 60-day time period between the time I received my draft board letter and the time I was to present myself for the physical exam, was the Christmas holiday break. Now, here’s my dilemma; should I use my Christmas money that I worked so hard for to pay for this doctor’s letter or what…? Either way it was going to cost me…

Until… I went to do some Christmas shopping…

When I was home for the Christmas break holiday, I went to the Mall to do some shopping. As I was entering the Mall, at the entrance area to the Mall, I walked past a book store with large glass windows. Right exactly in my path, near the entrance to the bookstore, was a huge, brand new, state-of-the-art copy machine…!

Copies only cost 5 cents a page and I made 4 copies. (Hey, I’m a poor college kid with very limited funds for Christmas shopping, remember…)

Anyway,  recall thinking… that’s what I’m going to do…

I’m going to make a photocopy of my unusual right hand, palm side down, on this new copy machine and send that to the draft board. Believe me when I say that this kind of a photocopy of your hand, palm side down, is impossible if you have all your fingers.

After I made the several photocopies, (for backup and for the novelty of it), on the copy I sent to the draft board, I wrote;

“..Dan Holmes does not have the below listed appendages,


(signed)  Dr. Donald Duck…”.

(An exact reproduction of this letter is posted below)

This was the actual way I responded to my draft notice. I figured that at the least I was saving the $14.00 for the doctors letter and if I had to show up for an “examination” I think the result would have been the same… don’t you…?

 A few months later, I was as surprised as anyone that my exemption to the draft was acceptable, based on a photocopy of my hand, and I was removed from the military draft because “I didn’t have a trigger finger….”.

I still have my draft cards. In October of 1969, my draft card shows my 1-Y draft board military classification.

The letter below is an accurate reproduction of the letter I sent to the selective Service in response to my being called up in the draft in 1967.

I decided to first write this letter to see if I could save the $14.00 my ‘family’ doctor wanted to charge me if he wrote his letter… I mean, $14.00 just for a one page letter, for a poor college kid back in 1967, was a full day’s pay at my part-time welders job…

If this letter didn’t work, then I’d either have to appear or just pay the $14.00 for the doctor’s letter and appear anyway.

Nothing ventured… right…!

So, I gave it a try…

selective service letter

The following is one of the posters I put together based on my Draft Board Experience. 

 poster 11

…there’s more to come…!