What is a Draft Dodger?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A draft dodger or draft resister is someone who evades a national military conscription, also known as a draft. As a general rule, the term “draft dodger” is used in a pejorative way, to describe someone who shirks on his or her duty, which is why many people who choose to evade the draft prefer to be called draft evaders or draft resisters. Draft dodgers attracted a great deal of public attention in the 1960s, when some drafted Americans choose to hide or flee rather than be sent to fight in the Vietnam War.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Although the concept of draft dodging may have become popularized during the Vietnam War, draft dodgers have been around for centuries. There are a wide variety of reasons for avoiding military service, ranging from personal objections to a war to simple cowardice, and there are also an assortment of ways in which conscription can be avoided or evaded. Some techniques for avoiding a draft are actually perfectly legal, despite the negative connotations with draft dodging.

For example, someone can register as a conscientious objector, indicating that he or she has a moral opposition to participating in a war. Depending on the situation, a conscientious objector may be able to avoid military service entirely, or he or she may be placed in a non-combat position. If he or she feels that supporting a war in any way, shape, or form goes against personal convictions, he or she may be excused altogether.

People have also evaded conscription through health problems, claims of homosexuality and other behavior which is considered “morally unfit” by many militaries, declining to enlist when drafted, or seeking student and marriage deferrals. Some people have also attempted to enlist in service branches which are less likely to be sent to combat, such as the United States Coast Guard, thereby satisfying a need for national service and reducing the risk of being sent to war. Historically, some draft evaders have simply paid others to go in their place, although this practice is frowned upon in many regions of the world today.

In some cases, a draft dodger simply runs away. He or she may pursue this action out of desperation, especially after a request for conscientious objector status has been denied, or out of a lack of understanding when it comes to the options for people who wish to avoid military service. In these cases, the draft dodger usually leaves the country, often seeking shelter in a nation which is known to be friendly to draft dodgers.

The charges which a draft dodger may face can vary. Many are given only light prison sentences or fines, because they have not yet enlisted in the military, and therefore their actions could not be termed desertion. If, however, a draft dodger resorts to fraudulent activities in an attempt to avoid military service, the penalties could be increased.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Fight for freedom, self-determination, and dignity. Fight without choice, without honor, obey every command no matter how abominable, surrender your will to power: to fail in this is the death of one's illusion of liberty. In doing so, one fights for a chimaera, an America that has never existed.


Dear Post number 7, anon321610 "As a veteran," you are therefore admitting to be a, "loser... junky... alcoholic... dumb and poor," and should "...be in prison."

As a nurse who cares for veterans that is offensive to me. Not everyone is a murderer as you would be if drafted. That being said, there are jobs within the military that don't involve payment for killing. And I would want to avoid the draft however possible. But I would serve my country and die by whatever means to protect my family.


Draft dodgers are heroes.


No person on this planet should be forced to kill by any regime or government.


As a veteran, I can tell all to be careful. If I was drafted I would kill my own soldiers. The military is a wasted ambition and all the people in it are losers. They are junkies and alcoholics. If you are going to wear a uniform that tells everyone you're dumb and poor, you might as well be in prison. If every Russian had deserted in Afghanistan, Bin Laden would not have bombed us, so wake up. War leads to more war. Send in the politicians.


Avoided (legal) or evaded (illegal). You have to look at it both ways. I consider myself a draft dodger. I avoided the draft with a student deferment and several months before I graduated, I joined the Navy with a deferred entry until after graduation. I therefore dodged the draft and served on my own terms.


It would have been so easy to just abandon their duty and run, but to go to a war you know little to nothing about shows these men were true Americans, and in my opinion, the greatest generation. They went to fight a war they didn't understand because they had to. They didn't ask why and they didn't complain. They did their jobs and did them very well.

The USA never lost a major battle in Vietnam and what makes me sick is how the soldiers were treated when they got back and even today there is a stigma.

Draft dodgers should be arrested and tried and hopefully sent to Afghanistan. They make me sick.


I don't think it is a disgrace to be a draft dodger or a so-called coward if you believe that the war that your country is involved in is an unnecessary unjust war, lacking a good cause, or if you just cannot control your fear.


how can someone get away with not signing up for the draft?

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