Dick came of age to enter US military service in 1959 when he turned 18 years old. He registered for the draft, graduated from Natrona County High School in Wyoming that year, didn’t enlist and later began studying at Yale University. In February 1962 he was classified as 1-A (available for service), but the Selective Service System was only conscripting older men at that time. In June that year he was asked to leave Yale and returned to Wyoming, enrolling in Casper Community College in 1963.
Cheney sought and received four draft deferments on the basis of continuing education, marked as 2-S. A timeline of relevant events:
- 20 March 1963, aged 22. Applied for first draft deferment.
- Later 1963. Transferred to University of Wyoming in Laramie.
- 23 July 1963. Sought second draft deferment.
- 7 August 1964, aged 23. Gulf of Tonkin resolution passed, escalating US involvement in Vietnam.
- 29 August 1964. Married Lynne Vincent, high school sweetheart.
- 14 October 1964. Applied for third student draft deferment.
- May 1965, aged 24. Graduated university, changing his status to 1-A (though being married made conscription much less likely).
- 1 November 1965. Obtained fourth 2-S draft deferment as a graduate student at University of Wyoming.
On 6 October 1965 the Selective Service System began drafting married men who had no children. On 28 July 1966 (9 months and 2 days later) Elizabeth Cheney was born. On 19 January 1966 when Lynne was 10 weeks pregnant, Dick applied for and later received the 3-A hardship exemption from service for men with dependents: his fifth and final legal draft dodge.
On his birthday on 30 January 1967 Dick turned 26 and was no longer eligible for the draft.
The subject of his many deferments and exemption were only explored publicly in 1989 during the Congressional hearing to confirm him as H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense. The Democrats didn’t raise the issue during the 2000 Bush v. Gore campaign because VP candidate Joseph Lieberman had likewise never served.
Dick reportedly told a Washington Post reporter during the 1989 trial, “I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service.” Always the patriot.