FORT BELVOIR, Va. (AP) — He didn't join the Army willingly, but as Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Mellinger prepares to retire, he's grateful he found his calling.
Mellinger was drafted to fight the Vietnam War, and the Army believes he's the last draftee to retire, after 39 years. Most did their two years and left. But Mellinger had found home.
Mellinger, who's now 58, says he loves being a soldier.
When his draft notice arrived in 1972, tens of thousands of troops had been killed. Anti-war protests were rampant. Draft notices were being set on fire and returning soldiers were treated as part of the problem. The military wasn't a popular job.
Mellinger says he's happy with today's all-volunteer force, but he thinks the contributions of draftees have been forgotten.
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