During that era in the early 1960s through 1968, Phil’s prime draft years, the war was still widely supported in the United States, and the military was ramping up troop strength rapidly.
The call up began in 1965 when two US Marine battalions arrived in DaNang, South Vietnam, ready for combat operations. The buildup put huge pressure on the nation’s Selective Service System to enlist more men, according to several histories of the war.
Phil was facing a dilemma. He was nearing graduation, and he would automatically lose his draft deferment at the end of the term. At the time, the draft was compelling thousands of men from Louisiana to fight.
But not Phil. As it turns out, he married his “childhood sweetheart” Marsha Kay Carroway in 1966. By the best available information, she was pregnant at the time, giving Phil the ultimate deferment.
Married men with children moved to the very bottom of the Selective Service lottery used to pick people for service. Phil became a member of the elite “Five-Deferment Club,” which includes the likes of former Vice President Dick Chaney.
Instead of marching off to war, or at least military service, Phil went home after college to hunt ducks with high-powered shotguns. Ducks, of course, have never been known to shoot back.
In one sense, Phil’s experience is not atypical of many of his contemporaries, especially after 1968, when U.S. support for the war turned south. But it makes a difference now, because Phil belongs to another elite group known as “chicken hawks.”
His fiery denunciations of gays and African-Americans makes him hypocritical to say the least. But he also proudly cloaks himself in military trappings, from camo fatigues to the recent introduction of a line of Duck Dynasty camouflaged military-style assault weapons, the kind used in school massacres.
His ardent almost fanatical support for the military now, seems a little odd when he conveniently sat out the biggest war of his generation.
More than 58,000 Americans died, including nearly 1,000 from Louisiana and at least 22 classmates from his hometown of Monroe, Louisiana, according to military records researched by TheImproper.
That includes Monroe natives like Hosea Dennis Adam, an African American, killed in combat by an explosion in 1966 at Ben Hoa, Vietnam. Or Sgt. Randolph Guy Hart, Jr, gunned down by enemy fire in 1970 in Binh Dinh Province.
There’s another caveat to this story; Phil’s whereabouts during the war could only be pieced together by circumstantial evidence, timelines and coincidental events.
Despite his high-profile, outspokenness and the popularity of his A&E show, his activities during this time and his attitude about the war are a blank space. There are no details about his life from that period, except the sketchiest broad strokes.
And, his network has stonewalled on commenting.
The issue is important not only because Phil’s radical views hold sway with tens of thousands of fans, but also because the Vietnam War was the single-most, all-consuming issue defining and ultimately tearing apart his generation.
Consider the fate of younger brother Silas “Si” Robertson. He was drafted immediately after dropping out of Louisiana Tech and was promptly shipped to Vietnam. He survived the year-long tour and retired from the military in 1993.
But there’s no question he was scarred deeply by the experience. He’s lampooned on the show today as “crazy” Uncle Si. Perhaps, Phil’s fiery condemnations, and near fanatical obsession with the military would have been tempered somewhat by the same experience.
At the very least, he owes the public a full, clear and detailed explanation about his life during that time and why he avoided military service. As a robust college quarterback he certainly seemed fit for duty.
As Gen. Colin Powell, a Vietnam veteran, so passionately stated in his book: “I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well-placed… managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units.
“Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to their country,” he added.
Time to come to Jesus Phil.