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.
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.