Thursday

The Expendables

During the heady days of "revolution" in the early '70's calling in a bomb threat to a high school was a common occurrence. The reasons were varied- ranging from being denied our constitutional right to smoke during shop class to just needing an excuse for a cheap laugh.

Sixteen million men served in the miltary during World War Two. After the war, the officers went on to New York City to work as executives on Madison Avenue or Pratt and Whitney to build airplane engines. The rest became phys-ed coaches at the nation's junior and senior high schools.
A man who, just a few scant years earlier as a 17-year-old Marine faced down a suicide charges by waves of  doped up soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army screaming "banzai" at the top of their lungs is going to be pretty unmoved about  a few doped up hippies threatening to "bring down the system" from the safety of their "headquarters" next to the phone booth at the local Royal Castle. 

Nowadays a simple fist fight brings out the National Guard and pleas for calm from the Vatican. The school is shut down, renamed and repainted to help erase the trauma and finally reopened a week later with teams of counselors on hand to ease the students back into their routines.

To the Greatest Generation teaching back in the seventies, bomb scares were seen at worst, as a nuisance and at best, as a chance for the staff to catch an extra cigarette break.

They never bothered to call the cops choosing instead to handpick a team of students to "look for a bomb."  But who should they pick? Certainly not the star athletes, science nerds and valedictorian who were sent out to the parking lot to cower with the rest of the student body. The students chosen to comb the roofs for IED's were picked from the bottom of the barrel- the Expendables.

The Expendables could best be described as DECA students who all held jobs and non-DECA students who were unfit for the workplace.

 DECA stood for Distributive Education Something Something - a work release program designed to give students practical experience in the work place where they received hands-on training in grocery bagging and urinal cake replacing in preparation for a career in bagging groceries and replacing urinal cakes.

The DECA kids missed most of the bomb scares because they were at work by 9 a.m. Nobody even knew their names because they were never there. That left those students who didn't know urinal cakes from Shakespeare to conduct most of the searches.

I always had fun waving to the student body from the cafeteria roof and pretending I was going to jump or fall off. The searches ended when the teachers signaled by collectively stamping out the butts on the asphault.

We were called into action several times during my senior year. Serving as an effective deterrent, no bombs were ever found. The season of unrest passed as graduation approached.

At the end of the year, trophies and scholarships were handed out, beauty queens were crowned and varsity letters were passed out to all the jocks. The kids in Distributive Education Something Something were recognized in the yearbook but not a word about "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers" some of whom went on to protect the school during the summer session.

The Seabees and Merchant Marines were never considered real military no matter how much danger they faced during World War Two. It took them nearly half a century to get official recognition and government benefits. We're not waiting.

Your letter is ready, Sir! Complete with faux-Fusilier medal emblazened with the MHL monogram. The next time you wear it when the wife sends you to the grocery store to pick up a barrel of "Tidy Cats" be prepared to hear "Dude, Where can I get one of those?"

The "Letter Sweatie." Now on sale at My Handsome Store.

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