For many Mexican American servicemen, serving in war was for them fighting for the same equalities that many civil right groups were fighting for. Socially, Mexican Americans endured many obstacles to obtain equal opportunity in education and employment.
Due to high poverty rates among the Mexican American community, they were conveniently placed in the position to be drafted or chose the military as their way of gaining better opportunity. The Selective Service boards were strongly bureaucratic and “were hardly representative of mainstream America.”32 Directed by General Lewis B. Hershey, ninety percent of the directors of local boards were former or current top-ranking officers in the military who appointed members that shared the same mentality.
33 According to James Westheider, “the average local board member was male, white, middle-aged, and middle class…”34 This unfairly targeted ethnic minorities and poor whites for military duty. During the Vietnam War, more than 15,410,000 draft-age men received deferments, were exempted, or were disqualified to serve.35 The majority of those who did receive deferments were white and middle to upperclass men which indicated that “a disproportionate number of working class whites and minorities were drafted.
“36 Called “manpower channeling,” men who went to college were seen as having important skills that needed to be preserved at home, therefore, those who were not eligible for educational deferments because they could not afford it or were “not as smart,” were likely to be drafted into the military.37 Seen as a way to combat poverty, the government developed “occupational” programs within the military to assist young men in obtaining employable skills. In reality, the programs, such as Project 100,000, were designed to increase military manpower with the growing demand of the war. The United States government took advantage of the ethnic minorities and poor whites through its unfair Selective Service boards and deferments for the more privileged.