LINDEN, ALA. -- The basketball team at Linden High School is known as the Patriots. But Coach Willie Scott wants no Persian Gulf reunion with three members of his team who have signed up for military service.
Scott, a Vietnam veteran, is serving with the Army Reserve as an administrative sergeant at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with Livingston's 324th Personnel-Administration Unit.
"I sure would like to see them," Scott said, "but not over here. I don't want this thing to last long enough for them to be sent."
One of the seniors who has signed up for military service, point guard Kris Spears, has already been to basic training. "I was in a unit that was called up," Spears said, "but I'm still in school, so I had to transfer to a unit in Greensboro."
Another senior, Derreanco Agee, is also in the Army Reserve.
"I signed up in October," Agee said. That was two months after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
A third senior, Mark Williams, joined the Navy late last year.
Linden High School had a team of Patriots long before Operation Desert Storm, said Charlie Arledge, the school principal.
"Are we patriotic in Linden?" Arledge said. "That's our team name."
In the Persian Gulf, the whine of sirens warning of Scud missile attacks has Scott yearning to once again hear school bells. "I wish I was at home," Scott told The Birmingham News in a telephone interview, "but I believe in what we're here to do."
Scott said this assignment "hasn't been as scary as Vietnam. It's a lot calmer here than it was there."
Scott said he is proud of his Linden basketball team, a Class 2A school with a 10-5 record against a schedule of mostly larger schools.
"I wish I was coaching the team, but we have a job to do," Scott said of his military assignment. "I was hoping I would be home by tournament time, but now I don't think so."
At Linden, the military isn't just for athletes. "Of our 50 or so seniors," Arledge said, "I know of seven, including two girls, who have already joined." He said at least 38 alumni are serving in Operation Desert Storm.
One Patriot basketball senior who is not in the military is Roy Rogers, the team's 6-foot-9 center.
"Losing our coach has been tough emotionally," Rogers said. "We had been with him since we were in the ninth grade. Our goal is to win the state tournament for Coach Scott."
When Scott's unit was activated in November, Linden football coach Bobby Hall, whose team had just lost in the state playoffs, was recruited to fill in on the basketball court.
"The basketball players came to me," Hall said, "and asked me to coach the basketball team. I almost let them down. I told them I had to rest. But I relented. Coach Scott was doing what he had to do in Saudi Arabia. I had to help fill in at home."