Clif Voshen received his draft notice in 1972 during his first semester of graduate school at Indiana University. The Army let him finish that semester before he entered the service the day after Christmas.
Voshen became the last draftee in his home county of Calhoun County, Michigan.
“I wouldn’t trade it for what it did for me,” he said. “It wasn’t on my radar to go in the military.”
The Vietnam-era veteran went through basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and then advanced individual training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, in military police and corrections specialist.
As a 23-year-old private first class, he became a military policeman at the Army Retraining Brigade at Fort Riley, Kansas. This was a minimum security prison which represented a second chance for Soldier prisoners who had gone through court-martial for offenses that were non-felonies.
Voshen was college-educated but found himself working alongside Soldiers who represented a cross section of America – including draftees who may have been poor or illiterate.
“All of us working together there for a purpose,” he said. “Looking back at it, it gave me a love for my country. I didn’t enlist so I was drafted. It wasn’t my choice to be drafted but it was my choice to go when my country called. So here I was making three hundred bucks a month as a private when all my college buddies were starting their careers. It was like service: I didn’t volunteer for it and yet I gave two years.”
At first he did guard duty and walking patrol. After two months, the brigade needed someone who could type so he got sent to the administrative building to type court-martial reports. Next he was selected for what he said was the brigade’s best job – the brigade commander’s driver. For the last 14 months of his tour, Voshen served as the driver for Col. Thomas Adair.
“His wife wanted someone who could drive on snow and ice, I think,” Voshen said laughing. “One day I was a hero driving on ice.”
The job came with other duties at the headquarters. He would tabulate all the 100 or so prisoners arriving from throughout the world. He had to make coffee for the leadership – and that’s where he started drinking coffee.
Voshen had the opportunity to take a literature class at Kansas State University in fall 1974 because he planned to return to graduate school after leaving the Army that November. He noticed the strange looks he received from his fellow students because of his military-style short haircut.
After leaving the Army, the GI Bill paid his out-of-state tuition when he finished his master of business administration program at Indiana University in 1975. He had received a bachelor’s in economics from Kalamazoo College in June 1972, completing his four-year deferment from military service. He received a post-baccalaureate certificate in accounting in 1997 from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
He was the youngest of two sons of a World War II veteran and a school teacher in Tekonsha, Michigan, about 20 miles southeast of Battle Creek.
Voshen moved to Huntsville 27 years ago from Ukiah, California. The certified public accountant serves as chief financial officer for the Great Western concession food company in Hollywood, Alabama.
He and his wife of 26 years, Anita, reside in Huntsville. At 69 he likes to write, walk for exercise and work out. He attends The Rock Family Worship Center and he works in a ministry called Urban Rangers for inner-city children. Voshen belongs to the American Legion.
Asked his thoughts on this nation’s commemoration of 50 years since the Vietnam War, he recalled the men from his small hometown in Michigan who returned mentally scarred from their combat experience.
“Whatever we’re doing probably is not enough for the guys who were in the thick of it,” he said.
Editor’s note: This is the 239th in a series of articles about Vietnam veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.