This story originally aired on June 9, 2018.
Most of us don’t grow up dreaming of being a tiny gear in some big, impersonal mechanism. But for Rich Hawkins, destiny started coming into focus on the day when, as a kid, the first family television showed up.
“The living room was dark and everybody was watching. And I’m peering over the shoulder of adults on the couch. And they were watching a war movie. And I must have gotten scared, because the next thing I remember is being in my bed with the covers over my head, thinking how unfair it was that God had made me a boy, because I would have to grow up and do what I had seen - the explosions and the mud and the pain and all,” said Hawkins.
The idea of war never excited Hawkins the way it might have for his friends who played army in the woods. To him, it just seemed to be what boys did. Boys go off to combat.
By the time he was in college, the Vietnam War had escalated. Hawkins opposed the war, but then he found out his student deferment was going to disappear, and he was left facing the draft. So instead, he decided to just enlist in hopes of getting a better job.
While Hawkins had gone through basic training, his role was supposed to be documenting the war, not fighting it. But around Thanksgiving 1967, Rich found himself right in the middle of the storm.
Listen to the story, and hear how Hawkins came to the conclusion that for people to be prepared to die for something they were against is an example of how the system works.