When the draft notice arrived in the mail in 1972 at his home in Eugene, Ore., 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.
The return address on the letter was the White House. Just 19, he was impressed that President Richard Nixon would write to him.
"I opened it up and it said, 'Greetings from the president of the United States.' I said, 'Wow, how's he know me?'" Mellinger said, laughing. "It was a form letter that said my friends and neighbors had selected me to represent them in the Armed Forces and I was hereby ordered to report for induction."
Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Mellinger will retire from the Army this summer.
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.