O'brien contemplated desertion to avoid the draft.
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he did not want to be considered a coward
O'Brien contemplates desertion throughout his entire training and tour of duty; that one question is always being debated in his mind. His reasons for considering desertion or draft-dodging isn't out of fear; it's an inner moral conflict, but he's not just considering his own moral beliefs......... he's considering the affects it would have on his family and the repercussions they'd face as well. His desire to desert comes from his moral belief that the war id wrong, while he's there, the murder of citizens and children leads him to question once more..... it's a moral battle.......... period.
During Advanced Individual Training to be an Infantryman, he develops the idea of deserting, begins doing research for it at the Post Library in his spare time, and starts gethering supplies. On a weekend pass just before Christmas 1968, he goes into Seattle prepared and packed to begin his trip to Sweden. He checks into a hotel to gather his wits, think through his plan, and attend to final details. In the course of this weekend he is overwhelmed with the enormity of such an action and revisits the reasons for desertion rather than staying with the Army and going to Vietnam to participate in a war in which he does not believe. Ultimately, his fear of the ramifications in his hometown and family and circle of friends--the embarassment and humiliation of his family caused by his desertion and not doing his generally-accepted "duty"--proved too much to bear, and he took what he considered the coward's way out by remaining in the Army and going to Vietnam. The overarching sense of embarassment to himself, his family, and his broader hometown community caused him to choose the easier course.
BTW, dante: one does not desert from the draft (that is draft avoidance), one must be a member of the military to "desert". He had already been drafted, inducted, and trained; so it was a little late to avoid the draft.