Army Men MAG

January 6, 2012
By Mark Baker BRONZE, Niskayuna, New York
Mark Baker BRONZE, Niskayuna, New York
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Everyone remembers getting up at the crack of dawn to watch the dynamite, anvils and cheap jokes of Saturday morning cartoons. You raced around the house in your pajamas, the sugar of two bowls of Lucky Charms coursing madly through your veins until, as the chaos reached its peak, your groggy parents roared and you sat quietly and got out toys.

For some, it was blocks or Legos, for others, Barbies. Mine were plastic army men in their classic positions unchanged since who-knows-when. Their faces were stern and serious, always ready for a scrap with the enemy. Modeled after America’s finest, they had a variety of weapons: infantry gripping their rifles and machine-guns tightly; heavy artillery, flame-throwers or bazookas lined up ready to fire at your command.

Our house was their battleground, a field of never-ending possibilities. Piles of laundry were trenches and bunkers for troops to hide in. On the kitchen table, they hid behind glasses and cereal bowls (missile silos and toxic-waste dumps). The back yard was one of my favorites, where soldiers battled for control of the sandbox or swing set. On a few occasions my troops became MIA due to the blades of the lawn mower, or teeth of the dog. The best part were the possibilities. It was a giant role-playing game, and I was commander.

In a world of political correctness, violent toys may be considered improper. But to me, there was no greater joy than getting a plastic bucket full of these small men, who got me in an occasional heap of trouble, like the time several fell off the PT boat patrolling the kitchen sink. They disappeared into the disposal and were mauled by the whirling blades. When my brother and I got the idea that our set needed casualties, we got a big heap and melted them one by one, ruining my mother’s candle. If you have ever seen plastic melt, you know what they looked like. They were, to my youthful mind, cool, with their bodies twisted and appendages charred. We painted them with red model paint and when they were finished and set up it looked like the opening scenes of “Saving Private Ryan” – my mom went crazy!

These soldiers are part of the American tradition. Every boy who has grown up in America probably has memories of these soldiers modeled after those who fought in battles of freedom such as D-Day, The Bulge and Iwo Jima. They’re still in my basement. Sometimes I play with them when I feel down. I know they will always be at attention, waiting for my next order.

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