David and Karen Dupage
Today I’d like to talk about the late 1960s and the crucial choices that boys and young men had to make about their involvement in the Vietnam War. By the late 60s, when many of us first-born baby boomers were reaching manhood, we had to face the reality that we would be drafted into the army and possibly sent off to fight in Vietnam. The war had become extremely controversial. Many people in the country felt that the war was a tragic mistake; awful for the citizens of Vietnam who were being killed at a disturbing rate, and terrible for the young men of our country who would be drafted to fight in. There was another faction who were supportive of the war. Many of our parents, especially our fathers who had fought in World War II, could not understand why we young men would not want to fight and defend our country.
Some of us, the fortunate ones, could find a way to avoid serving. At first, for those lucky enough to be able to go to college, there were student deferments. Later, in 1969 there was a draft lottery where some lucky men/boys drew a high enough lottery number that they would not likely be drafted. Out of 365 days of the year, only those with the misfortune to be picked in the first 100 in the lottery were likely to be drafted.
For those who could not go to college, there was no way around the draft. Others found a way to get around it. Some could get medical deferments. Others used their family influence to be assigned to reserve units that were not likely to be called up to go to Vietnam. Three of our presidents, Bill Clinton, George Bush Jr., and Donald Trump were able to find their way out of being drafted. John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, wrote a famous song about this privilege in Fortunate Son.
I was one of the lucky ones. From 1964 until 1968 I was able to get a student deferment. In 1967 during my senior year of college, I enrolled in education classes at the University of Michigan. When I graduated in 1968, I was able to secure a job as a teacher in Harlem in New York City. By 1969, the teacher deferment was halted to be replaced by a draft lottery. Once again I was a lucky one. As my girlfriend and future wife, Pat Carino, and I, watched from a bar on the Upper West Side of New York City, my number drawn from the barrel was 268, high enough to be sure that I would not be drafted.
Many of my compatriots were not so lucky. They faced the choice of trying to fake an illness during their draft physical or escaping to Canada which was not holding a draft. Others chose to not resist but to go into the armed services. Many of those were sent to Vietnam.
One of us was not so lucky. Nick Luxon was my good friend from high school. After college, Nick was drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam. Unfortunately, he was assigned to the infantry, even though he was an extremely bright young man with a college degree who could’ve served the army in a more productive way. After several months of active duty in Vietnam, he parachuted out of a plane and landed on a punji stick. The North Vietnamese army had planted these sticks, which were coated in human excrement. A serious infection followed and Nick was sent to a hospital in Pleiku.
Here are some of the recent memories from Nick:
Vietnam was 2 different worlds: Infantry and artillery. The infantry carried 100 pounds on our backs. I was in the mountains as were the Green Berets and Montagnards near the Cambodian border. We slept in the grass, mud, and rain while many snakes, rats, mosquitoes, scorpions, and leeches by the millions crawled around us. While in the humidity heat, there always was wet jungle rot, etc., then you throw in the enemy. We went into an old firebase by helicopter. When I was wounded, they sent me to Pleiku Army Hospital by medivac for surgery on my leg. The wound turned to puss then I was sent to Cam Rahn Bay intensive care in Vietnam. Two weeks later, I was sent back to my unit after recovery. The army desperately needed infantry soldiers.
The first night back in the bush, I woke up with about 20 leeches in my wound which I learned later was a good thing. Early in the war large percentage of infantry were young African American men taking a large amount of the casualties. Racial tension exploded in base camps later more and more whites were assigned to the infantry.
Twice as many bombs were dropped on the Laos Ho Chi Minh trail than all of WW2. 6000 Marines at Khe Sanh surrounded by 25000 NVA soldiers. Operation Pegasus: 17000 army, and marines, sent in to open up highway 9 and Khe Sanh. I could go on forever but better stop. Yes, I think about Vietnam and Cambodia every day which is hard to admit.
Nick has found meaning and purpose in his life by dedicating himself to helping other veterans from Vietnam and the more recent tragic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to recover mentally and physically from their own trauma. He has worked diligently with Fisher House, which is an organization that builds comfort homes where military & veteran families can stay free of charge, while a loved one is in the hospital. Please consider donating to this worthy foundation, which has just built a new facility in Ann Arbor. Recently he helped create a memorial park in Royal Oak Michigan to commemorate the service of soldiers from the area. My dad, Al Pasick, is part of that memorial. Pat and I contributed by buying a brick in his name.
Nick was one of four great friends during our senior year of high school. Three of us were able to avoid the draft. I got my teaching deferment and a good draft number. Jeff MacDonald got a conscientious objector deferment and worked at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. Bob Falardeau was able to get out of the draft on a medical deferment because he had lost a kidney from a football injury in high school. Nick was the only one to go into the service.
From left to right: Jeff MacDonald, Nick Luxon, John Mattson, and quarterback Bob Super in 1964
My dad, Al Pasick, served as a medic in Iran during the war. As this was a secret mission, he never talked about it during his entire life. Unfortunately, like many returning soldiers, he came home and started to drink too much. My belief is that most of the soldiers who served overseas during World War II were suffering from PTSD, which had not been recognized at that time. I believe that the high level of alcohol use among these veterans was their way of trying to cope and self-medicate in response to the traumatic impacts of the war. Most would not talk about their service, even until their dying days. This inability to talk about the trauma is a clear sign of PTSD. Here is a link if you would like to learn more about PTSD, this podcast interview of Bessel van der Kolk – This Conversation Will Change How You Think About Trama is extremely informative about PTSD and trauma.
Shown above: Al Pasick during his time as a medic and Dr. Rob with his father, Al Pasick
Another of my friends was David Dupage. David was a counselor and a truly wonderful person who died in 2021, from complications of being exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam during the 60s. David’s story is a fascinating one. Despite the fact that he developed diabetes and psychological problems related to PTSD after the war, for many years he had difficulty getting any kind of disability payments. He had to apply over and over again and jump through many hoops to finally get some help. On the positive side, David later received magnificent treatment in the later stages of his life at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. Below, read the amazing obituary about David, David helped thousands of men recover from their traumatic wounds, whether they were from serving in the Armed Forces or growing up in a traumatic household.
DAVID DUPAGE OBITUARY
DuPage, David Theodore of Vandercook Lake, passed away peacefully at home on August 29, 2021 at the age of 75. David was born to Theodore and Laura DuPage in Hamtramck, Michigan on January 14, 1946. David was preceded in death by his parents, his wife of 41 years, Karen Marie; his grandson, Cullen; and his great-granddaughter, Amanda. David is survived by his children, Larry (Sue) Rodgers, John (Pam) Kujawa, Paula Marie Kujawa, and Jim (Marilyn) Kujawa. He leaves behind grandchildren, Jennifer (Bill) Fulmerhouser, Janelle (Dean) Hoopes, Jordan Kujawa, and Kyle Kujawa along with great-grandchildren, Nathaniel Martin, Cody Breslin, Shon Breslin, and Dennis Slawinski Jr. David is also survived by his sisters, Diane (Tom) Patterson and Donna (Bill) Howard; brother-in-law, Jim McGuire, and many nieces and nephews. David graduated from Croswell-Lexington High School in 1963. He earned a bachelor of science from Eastern Michigan University in 1978, where he was a member of Psi Chi, the national honor society in psychology. He earned a master of science from Michigan State University in 1988. David worked at the Chrysler Proving Grounds for 11 years before spending 18 years in private social work practice with his wife Karen. David loved to vacation with Karen, taking many skiing trips to Colorado. They frequently visited Lake Michigan in their motor home. He also enjoyed tinkering with anything mechanical, watching old movies, and cuddling with his dog Joey. David served in the army during the Vietnam War, where he received the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal. The family would like to thank Michael and Tonie Kukulka for their kindness and support over the past 10 years. Cremation has taken place, with interment in the future at Silver Lake Cemetery in Wolverine, Michigan. Memorial donations may be given to David’s Promise, Compassionate Ministries of Jackson County or to the American Legion, of which David was a long time supporter.