When the call to register came, John Roberts resisted. But only for as long as sleep and his mother would allow.
"She woke me up and told me to get down here so I won't have to pay a fine or got to jail," said Roberts, whose 1960 birthday put him in line this week at an Alexandria post office to register for the draft.
Roberts, a 1978 graduate of T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, was one of approximately 5,000 area youths born in the first three months of 1960 who were obliged by law to register Monday at 200 area post offices. But while they shared lines -- behind stamp lickers and package senders -- the boys, from Northern Virginia at least, had radically differing views on their military mission.
"I'm all for it, 100 percent," said Kirby Porter, a McLean High School graduate who said he was fighting mad last week when it looked like a federal court decision in Philadelphia would eliminate the registration.
"I think it's about time," added Mark Rogers, another 20-year-old at the McLean post office who professed an ardor equal to Porter's. "I was in military school, and the caliber of soldiers today is poor. I know."
At Alexandria's Olde Towne Post Office, Arthur Nelson was considerably less enthusiastic.
"The registration is fairly painless. But I would be opposed to the actual draft," said Nelson, a black graduate of Bishop Ireton High School. a"I feel the selective service process is not exactly fair. The military is disproportionately minority. It's easier to fight when you have something to defend. And I don't think the majority of young blacks have anything to defend."
Donnie Simpson, another 20-year-old waiting to check in with Uncle Sam at Alexandria, said that while he was resigned to the registration, he wasn't waving any flags.
"Of my friends, no one really wants to be the first to go," said Simpson, a T.C. Williams High School graduate.
Outside Arlington's Central Post Office, 20-year-old Bill Meagher stood beside an Army recruiting poster and tried to unscramble mixed emotions. s
"I don't enjoy killing people, but when it comes down to it I'd protect the people of this country," said Meagher.
Demonstrators in front of the Merrifield Post Office in Fairfax County tried to persuade 20-year-olds that patriotism would be best served by refusing to register. But few seemed to heed the advice.
"Basically we're running into really hostile people," said Nancy Kupec, a 22-year-old student at George Mason University and a member of the Northern Virginia Coalition Against the Draft. Kupec said she and her colleagues were only trying to inform potential draftees that "it's not a constitutional edict. They don't have to register."
But after a short pause, Kupec continued, "granted, they'll probably go to jail."
At least one 20-year-old refused to register this week, but it had nothing to do with any outside advice.
"I ain't registering," said the Fairfax County 20-year-old who was hitchhiking on the Beltway in 100-degree heat. "I just figure there are so many others, they won't miss me."