#Fulla5 NYC and Opelika are basically the same place

I’ve only been in the New York area for about 10 hours but I’ve already noticed 5 striking similarities in the New York metropolitan area and Opelika. As far as I’m concerned, we’re basically the same town, not only because Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan, the former Miss New York, is a graduate of Opelika High School and currently resides in the city, but also because of 5 more solid reasons.

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I give you the #Fulla5 in a New York State of Mind…

1) New York City has the Hudson River. Opelika has Stink Creek. The Hudson River is just like Stink Creek, only deeper. Furthermore, the Hudson goes all the way up to West Point, and I’m willing to bet that somehow you can get to West Point (Ga.) by way of Stink Creek.

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2) The New York metro area has approximately 20.2 million people. Opelika has approximately 20.2 thousand people.

3) New York City is known as the Big Apple. Opelika used to have The Big Apple, a grocery store at the corner of Ave B and South 7th.

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4) New York had Simon and Garfunkel Live in Central Park. Opelika had Adam Hood Live in Monkey Park.

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5) And last but not least, New York has the world famous Waldorf Astoria hotel, and Opelika has, you guessed it, The Golden Cherry Motel.

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And I’ve stayed at The Golden Cherry. Had I stayed at the Waldorf Astoria on this trip, it would’ve been a step down.

Jody Fuller hails from Opelika, Ala. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Excerpt from my (in-progress) book

Post 9/11

It was mid-morning and Chyna and I were still lying in the bed asleep.

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During those days, I slept with the radio on. To the best of my knowledge that’s the only time in my life that I’ve ever done that. As I awakened and became more and more alert, I realized that the radio was airing coverage of a disaster at the World Trade Center. For some reason, I thought it may have been the anniversary of the first World Trade Center bombing back in 1993 but soon realized it was not. It was happening right then. We were under attack.

I wish I could say that I got dressed and immediately went to the recruiting station to reenlist in the army, but that just wasn’t the case; however, the thought did cross my mind more than once. One of the things I missed from my first stint in the army was the honor of wearing a combat patch on my right shoulder. I had a strong gut feeling that I might wind up there eventually, but I wanted to explore other options first.

Some of the job opportunities I’m about to go over happened before 9/11, but most of them took place afterwards.

One of my good friends sold insurance and asked if I was interested in coming to work for his company. My interest was piqued when he told me how much money I could make, so I took what I can only describe as a multiple choice personality or character exam to see if I’d be a good fit for the insurance business. As it turns out, I was not. I think I was too honest for the business. Honestly. They really thought I could excel and asked me to retake the test after a little coaching, but I declined. Insurance was not for me. Besides, I didn’t want people to scatter whenever they saw me approaching.

It’s funny, because nowadays, when people ask me what I do for a living and I don’t feel like telling them “comic, speaker, soldier, blah, blah, blah,” I simply tell them I sell insurance and the conversation comes to a screeching halt.

I also interviewed for a job at a furniture store. He made a snide comment about my stuttering but seemed like an okay guy. The interview went well but ended abruptly when he said he had to go run a credit check. He went to run it and I ran the other way. I never heard back from him.

The Duck Head outlet was next on the agenda. Due to my history in retail and my exceptional customer service skills, the interview went quite well. I likely would’ve landed the job had I not snickered when the lady mentioned that her cat had just died, and they buried it in a casket.

Adrian let me borrow a shirt for the next interview at the Hilton Garden Inn. I can’t remember what the position was, but the interview lasted a good 90 minutes and was filled with positive vibes. At the end, the lady was ready to offer me the job.

“Now this position starts out at $7.00 an hour,” she said.

“Do what? Why didn’t you tell me that 90 minutes ago?” I thought to myself.

Heck, I was making $11.95 an hour at Kroger. I told her thanks but no thanks.

Leaving Kroger before landing a job was a huge mistake. If I could go back and change anything about this period of time in my life, it would be that. My mindset was that companies would be lining up to hire me, not only because I was a veteran and a college graduate but also because of my proven job stability at Kroger. That was simply not the case, but I learned a valuable life lesson. Don’t quit your job until you have another one. It shouldn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure that one out, but I did have more opportunities.

Russell Stover Candies was a great interview and took place in Montgomery at a fancy hotel, one of those with the doors on the inside of the building. I vividly remember it being the Friday after 9/11. I was very excited about this opportunity and was confident that the job was mine to lose. I was very familiar with the company from my time working at Kroger. This job started off at $31,000 a year and came with a company car. I always thought that if I ever made even $25,000 a year, I would feel like a millionaire. Millionaire or not, it was not meant to be. I didn’t get the job and was highly disappointed.

I was struggling through it all. I was getting further and further behind on bills. I had to make choices between which bills to pay and which one to let slide. Of course, I paid the utilities first. They were necessities. One time, I went to pay my telephone bill after it had been disconnected. I needed it back on ASAP just in case someone called about a job.

“My phone was disconnected this morning, so I need to pay it,” I said as I handed her my check.

“Ok, let me see. It appears they are just doing some work on that line, so it’s not been disconnected,” she said.

“Cool. Can I get that check back?” I asked.

I was serious. She gave it back. My phone was disconnected the next week.

Stay tuned for future sneak peeks as I continue writing my still yet to be titled book about this poor stuttering kid from Opelika, Ala., who’s struggled to make something of his life with a whole lot of help from faith, family, and friends. Make sure you’re signed up on this email list. These previews are just the meat and potatoes, so please don’t notify me of any incorrect grammar 🙂

We’re also getting closer and closer to unveiling the brand new jodyfuller.com. Good things are happening. 

Does saying closer and closer actually make it any closer than just simply saying closer?

Thanks for reading,

Jody

Jody Fuller is from Opelika, Ala. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He currently holds the rank of Major in the US Army Reserves. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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One Tough ‘Ombre

One Tough ‘Ombre

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Today is the 70th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Bulge. This is an article I wrote last year for East Alabama Living (http://www.eastalabamaliving.com) Obviously Tom is now a year older and has been back to Europe a couple of more times. He’s treated like a rock star over there and deservedly so.

Tom Ingram, 88, recently had a hip replaced. He stopped taking pain medication after just two days. When his doctor asked why he’d quit taking the medication, Ingram replied, “Because I’m tough. I’m a Tough ‘Ombre. Besides, I’ve already been through hell.”

Ingram was born in 1925, on a farm along highway 80 in what is now Lee County.

Ingram had two brothers, both of whom volunteered to serve during WWII, whereas Tom, the middle brother, was drafted.

The oldest brother served with the 42nd Infantry Division, more commonly known as the Rainbow Division, while the youngest brother served with the All-American 82nd Airborne Division.

In 1944, the middle brother completed 12 weeks of training at Camp Blanding, FL before embarking on an 18 day transatlantic journey aboard a troop carrier.

Those 18 days on board the converted British freightliner were challenging. The troops were required to stay below the deck for the duration of the voyage to keep from being spotted by the Germans. It also prevented the troops from tossing cigarette butts overboard, which would have been another indication of allied troop activity. If detected, torpedoes from German U-boats likely would have followed.

Ingram was one of the few troops who didn’t smoke, so he stayed sick while the others smoked and gambled their way across the Atlantic.

After arriving in England, he shipped out to Normandy the very next day and was assigned to the 90th Infantry Division, nicknamed the “Tough ‘Ombres.” They were originally called the Texas-Oklahoma Division, which was represented by the T & O on their shoulder patch. Their reputation on and off the battlefield warranted the change.

In December 1944, Ingram experienced his first taste of war in the Battle of Dilligen. It was here where he first witnessed the death of a platoon mate. It would not be the last.

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The Battle of the Bulge, fought from December 16, 1944 – January 25, 1945, was the last major Nazi offensive against the Allies in WWII. The battle was a final effort by Hitler to divide the Allies in their drive towards Germany and to destroy their ability to supply themselves.

The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard and became the costliest battle of the war in terms of casualties for the United States.

Ingram will never forget how cold it was there amongst the densely forested Ardennes region of Belgium, France and Luxembourg.  He estimates there to have been 18-19 inches of snow on the ground.

One night, his unit marched through the snow, directly through an ambush zone, but the Germans were too cold to mount an offense.

Ingram survived the Battle of the Bulge and soon found his way to the Czechoslovakian border as the war came to an end.

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For his service, Ingram received many medals including two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.

He returned home to East Alabama where he enrolled at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (API.) In 1950, he graduated with a degree in Agricultural Education and went on to teach for 18 years. API is now known as Auburn University.

In the early fifties, he married Myrtle, who gave birth to five children.

Since the end of WWII, he has returned to Europe 20 times and is actively involved in many WWII ventures, including the 90th Infantry Division Association. He frequently attends Battle of the Bulge reunions.

“There was a break in action around Christmas of ‘44,” Ingram recalls. “I remember having Christmas dinner with all the fixings. It sure was good. I got to eat it at the radio station but as soon as I finished, I had to go back outside and get in my foxhole.”

These days, Ingram enjoys the holidays in the comfort of his own home as he gathers with his family each year on Christmas Eve.

His lovely bride of 50 years passed away in 2003.

Tom Ingram is a proud member of the greatest generation and a tough ‘ombre to boot, but he wants to set the record straight about one thing. “They say our unit walked 1,946 miles across Europe but that’s not true, because half the time we ran like hell,” explained a chuckling Ingram.

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Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Happy 100th: Veteran from Opelika marks century of life

James Camp Mayfield, better known as J.C., was born in Concord, Ga., on Sept. 14, 1914. He was the oldest of 12 children born to Homer and Allie Mayfield. This week, he will turn 100 years old.

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As with most people, his memory isn’t what it used to be, but he recalls moving to Opelika when he was 19 years old. At 20 he was in the U.S. Army and stationed at Ft. Benning. He served in the Army from 1934-37 before transferring over to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), where he would remain until the US was pulled into World War II.

While at Ft. Benning, he was a member of a hitched artillery unit and learned to shoe horses. After being recalled to active duty, he was assigned to Ft. Bliss, Texas. There, he shoed just one horse before the Jeeps were brought in.

In September of 1942 he received orders to go to San Francisco. “I was there just long enough to be shipped out,” he recalls. From San Francisco, he sailed to Australia aboard the USS Washington. Although a member of the Army’s First Cavalry Division, Mayfield, along with a handful of other soldiers, was assigned to the Navy during the voyage. Because of the temporary transfer, he became a member of the Neptune Club when the ship crossed the equator, and he still has the citation to prove it.

Mayfield, now a communications specialist, spent approximately nine months in Australia before seeing combat in the Solomon Islands, where he contracted jungle rot and caught malaria. Upon evacuation from the South Pacific, he spent 11 months at a hospital in Oklahoma. His wounds had to be cleaned and his bandages had to be replaced several times throughout the day.

After leaving Oklahoma, he came home to Opelika for a brief stay with his family on East Street. He wasn’t in Opelika very long before being transferred to a field hospital in Miami Beach. When asked what he did there, he smiled and said, “I went to the beach.”

In 1940, before the war, he married Iris Mann, who served as a switchboard operator at Opelika’s Prisoner of War camp. He has a fond memory of standing in a long line with hundreds of other GI’s to talk on a phone when Iris cut into the line and asked to speak to J.C. Mayfield, who was somewhere in the middle of the pack. He made his way to the front of the line and was able to speak to his bride.

He would stay in Miami for about six months before being released from the Army and coming back to Opelika. Although released from active duty, Mayfield chose to continue to serve in the Alabama National Guard and would do so until retirement.

He spent the bulk of his career working at West Point Pepperell, where he served as the supervisor of the carpentry department. He retired from the mill in 1979.

He and Iris had four children; however, Iris passed away in 1969.

Although he loved his departed wife dearly, he did find a new love and married Noreen Freeman a short time later. Her husband had passed away as well, and, coincidentally, his name was J.C. They enjoyed traveling and spent many happy years together before her passing in 2000.

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Mayfield has touched a lot of lives throughout his life, but perhaps none more so than the life of his brother-in-law, friend, and longtime Opelikian George “Red” Marlett. “He’s been a wonderful friend to me and such an inspiration. He’s responsible for getting me into the Masons,” said an emotional Marlett.

Mayfield lived by himself until the age of 98 but moved to Athens to live with his daughter Judy about a year and half ago.

They have a big surprise birthday party planned for him at church. They had one last year, too. The preacher jokingly said then, ‘We’re making a big deal out of J.C.’s 99th birthday this year because some of you might not be here next year, but we’re sure J.C. will be.” Sure enough, some of those in attendance that day will not be there, but Mayfield will certainly be there, surrounded by his family and the friends that he’s been blessed with throughout his century on Earth.

Some of them may not be around for his 101st birthday, but everyone seems to think he will be.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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My Salute to Teachers

I woke up Wednesday morning in Key West. Okay, it was actually the Key West Inn in Hamilton, Ala., but when I closed my eyes, I felt like I was in Key West. They had paintings of lobsters and crabs on the wall, which was pointless when I closed my eyes. My room even smelled like fish.

When I got out of the shower, I realized there was no hair dryer in the bathroom. It has become standard for most places to provide such amenities. It’s imperative that my bangs stand up. It’s a must, or I just don’t have the confidence to perform at my best. I needed to adapt and overcome, and so I did. I put the gel in my hair while sitting in the front seat of my car, and then proceeded onto Interstate 22. I rolled down my window and drove 70 miles per hour with my head sticking out of the window like Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. It worked. My hair looked good.

When I got back to the motel, I saw the hair dryer mounted to the wall. Apparently, I overlooked it.

I was in Hamilton to give a 90 minute presentation to the faculty of the Marion County School System. My purpose was to motivate and inspire them in an entertaining manner as they prepare for the start of yet another year of school. For some, it was year 25; for others, it was year one. I salute them all, because I know how difficult it can be to teach today’s youth. I’d rather have a root canal or pull for Alabama. I take that back. I’d rather be a teacher.

Tuesday morning, I did the same thing for the Coosa County School System. I’ve performed in places such as Washington DC, Seattle, and Las Vegas, but you know you’ve hit the big time when you’ve performed in Rockford, Ala. I felt big time anyway, because I have such great respect for educators.

With Mr. Sanford, the superintendent of the Coosa County School System. He knows my uncle, the deer processor.

With Mr. Sanford, the superintendent of the Coosa County School System. He knows my uncle, the deer processor.

I owe much of my success to my teachers. Thirty years ago, had you told me, a stuttering kid, that I’d be giving 90 minute presentations to anyone, I would’ve referred you to the local looney bin. Fortunately, I had teachers that encouraged me to reach my full potential. They didn’t coddle me or try to hide me. They let me be me.

As with any profession, not all teachers excel in their field. I’ve heard horror stories of teachers not letting stuttering kids talk in class. I know of one kid that raised his hand more than anyone in the class, yet his teacher never called on him. This kid had no fear and reminds me a lot of myself. My speech vastly improved once I started raising my hand to volunteer to read or to answer a question. It took away the extra anxiety that often comes with the unknown. In his case, he was never called on. Whether his teacher was trying to protect him or just didn’t want to deal with him does not matter. All children, in spite of perceived flaws, should be allowed to participate and encouraged to reach their full potential. Sadly, school is the only place that some kids will ever get any kind of encouragement.

My cousin was named teacher of the year at Auburn Junior High School last year. Her dad, my uncle, was also in education. In fact, at one time, he was the mayor, the principal, and the deer processor in New Site. Although he was a great mayor and a great principal, he is mostly recognized for being a great deer processor.

Teachers are a lot like soldiers in that they are underpaid and often under-appreciated, but where would we be without these great Americans. So if you are a teacher, past or present, I salute you and wish you a wonderful school year.

For the record, a 90 minute speech for a stuttering guy is not as daunting a task as it seems. I only had to prepare 45 minutes worth of material.

(This was written in early August but I forgot to post it.)

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Frank Waldrop: local war hero

I love interviewing members of our military. Here is a story from the Opelika Observer I did a few weeks ago on a gentleman from my hometown. Turns out, we are related by marriage. Enjoy.

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Frank Waldrop’s roots run deep in Opelika. He was born on South Eighth Street in 1921 to Thomas and Fannie May (Trotter) Waldrop. He also had a sister, Mable.

Thomas, a WWI veteran, was co-owner of Crossley and Waldrop Furniture. He was also a mortician.

He has pleasant memories of growing up in Opelika. Those memories include meeting his buddies for a game of baseball down by the Confederate monument behind First Baptist Church. “The road was paved there,” he says, “but was a dirt road just beyond there.”

Another of his favorite “gathering places” was the city pool behind Clift High School, adjacent to Moore Stadium.

Young Frank went to first grade at Palmer Hall, which was located where Opelika City Hall is now. The school became too crowded, so he attended second grade at Miss Nettie E. Webb’s house on South Railroad Avenue. Her classroom was filled with switches, and, according to Frank, she wasn’t afraid to use them.

He went to Southside School for the next four years. Southside would eventually become Miriam S. Brown Elementary School. Today, it’s known as the Cultural Center of Opelika.

From the 7th to 11th grade, he attended Clift High, where he played football under Coach Lindy Hatfield, a former running back at Auburn.

“FDR had Moore Stadium built by the Public Works Administration the year I got there. Before that, they played the games at the fairgrounds,” he recalls.

When not playing football, Frank worked with his father, who’d left the furniture and undertaking business in favor of the grocery business. Waldrop’s Grocery was located in downtown Opelika on Seventh Street.

When Frank was 15, his father went back to the furniture business but also started a mattress business. This was during the Depression, so people did whatever they could do to provide for their families. Wherever his father went, young Frank was right there along his side.

“In those days, we only went to school through the 11th grade. It wasn’t until the year after I graduated that they implemented the 12th grade,” said Waldrop, who graduated in 1937.

At 16, while still in high school, Waldrop joined the Alabama National Guard. He was a combat medic assigned to 167th Infantry Regiment of the 31st Division. His service included training soldiers in Jacksonville, Fla., and Alexandria, La.

In 1941 he left the Fort Dallas Smith Armory for Camp Blanding, Fla., for a yearlong assignment. He was there training soldiers when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The first units he helped train were sent to Europe and North Africa.

“We were not allowed to call them draftees,” he said. “We were instructed to refer to them as selectees.”

Over the next couple of years, his unit trained soldiers at different locations around the country to replicate the vast terrain differences that soldiers would experience in Europe, Northern Africa and the Pacific. They included Camp Bowie, Texas, and the mountains of West Virginia.

They were also assigned to Camp Pickett, Va., for amphibious training in Chesapeake Bay. This training would serve him invaluably.

Frank Waldrop’s unit was initially slated for Italy, but that changed. Instead, they were sent to General Douglas MacArthur. “They didn’t need us in Italy, so they sent us to MacArthur. We went to the South Pacific,” he said.

Their point of embarkation was the aforementioned Chesapeake Bay. Their mode of transportation was a Dutch freighter that was converted to a troop carrier. Because of the constant threat of attacks from German submarines, the carrier was escorted along the east coast all the way to the Panama Canal.

Once they cleared the Panama Canal, they were all alone in the South Pacific for four weeks before landing on the world’s second largest island, New Guinea. Frank and his unit had a month to get climatized before seeing any combat duty.

The natives in New Guinea’s coast weren’t civilized, and there was no infrastructure. A battalion of Navy Seabees attached to his unit built roads and airstrips once the area was secure. Within a matter of days, the airstrips were fully functional.

In spite of heavy combat, his unit eventually made it all the way up the New Guinea coast and built bases along the way. Although he was a medic, he was a target the entire way. The Japanese had no respect for the red cross on his shoulder. He mended and repaired broken bodies throughout the war, which was a foreshadowing of things to come.

After a stop in the Dutch East Indies, his battalion, First battalion, fought on the island of Morotai. Second Battalion remained in reserve for some much needed rest while First Battalion did all the fighting.

They were on Morotai preparing to invade the Philippines when the atomic bomb fell on Japan. “That was the best thing to ever happen to us. MacArthur was getting organized and ready to go back into the Philippines. Had that happened, there’s no telling how many more would have died.

“The Japanese soldiers we were fighting on Morotai had other ideas about surrendering. They took off into the jungle. For all I know, they may still be there,” he said with a chuckle.

First Battalion was given a break while Second Battalion was tasked to take a weather station three days away. Technician Third Grade Frank Waldrop was reassigned to Second Battalion. “I missed out on the rest,” he said. “It was the easiest assault job I ever got into. The amphibious assault vehicles drove all the way onto the beach. I didn’t even have to get my boots wet – ordinarily, we were all the way up to our neck in water. And there were just a handful of Japanese.”

By this time, he had enough points to be eligible for discharge as soon as the war ended.

“I left out of the Philippines on a real big, nice ship. It wasn’t a regular troop carrier. It was more like a hotel,” he fondly recalled. “It took us to San Francisco where we stayed for two weeks.”

After a week-long train ride, he arrived at Camp Shelby, Miss., where he spent a week in the hospital. Upon his release, he boarded a bus back to Opelika.

“I caught up on five years of fun in about two,” he said with a smile.

Upon his return, he had a couple of local jobs in the auto industry before landing a job in the body shop at Tatum Chevrolet, where he’d spend the next 40 years. “For the first 10 years, I was on the line repairing wrecked cars but spent the last 30 in management,” he said.

“He was the best body man in Lee County,” said one friend.

In 1948, he married the former Johnny Lou Knight and has been happily married for 65 years. They were blessed with two children, Thomas and Belva, and are proud of Chandler, their only grandchild, who is simply described as “the best.”

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Since retiring at the age of 71, Frank has kept busy with work in and around the house and, along with his bride, has been an active member at First United Methodist Church.

When asked what the secret to their longevity was, Johnny Lou said, “Well, we never did fuss much. We just always got along. He didn’t drink and didn’t cuss much. Sometimes he might say “doggone!” but that’s about it.”

At 93 years old, he’s not as active as he once was. He spends a lot of time resting, but if anyone deserves the rest, it’s Frank Waldrop. After all, he’s still owed that doggone rest from the war.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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What is a hero?

Is a hero “faster than a speeding bullet?” Is a hero “more powerful than a locomotive?” Is a hero “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?” The answer is yes when discussing fictitious heroes; however, we are not. I want to talk about real life heroes.

What is a hero?

According to Merriam-Webster, a hero is defined as a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.

When I think of heroes, I immediately think of firemen. I will always have the images of the firemen on 9/11 etched into my memory. I see them running toward the burning buildings as thousands of others fled the opposite way.

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When I think of heroes, I think of police officers, who are only a traffic stop away from not going home to their families each night.

When I think of heroes, I think of Soldiers. While I don’t think of every Soldier as a hero, we certainly have our fair share.

Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Bennie Adkins of Opelika is a hero and is very close to receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Bennie Adkins of Opelika is a hero and is very close to receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor. 

Please read CSM Adkins’ story here.

I think of those who served during WWII to save our way of life. I think of those who served so admirably in the largely unforgotten Korean War. I think of those who served in the unpopular Vietnam War with little or no support back home. And today, I think of those men and women who voluntarily serve so others don’t have to serve involuntarily.

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Christopher Reeve

Reeve played Superman in four movies, so he knows a thing or two about being a hero. He did, however, star in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, so it’s his judgment that I question.

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The severe weather this past week brought out its share of heroes.

In Tuscaloosa, 21 year old student-athlete John Servati died a hero. While seeking shelter in a basement with his girlfriend, a wall began to collapse. He was able to hold up the wall just long enough for his girlfriend to escape. Seconds later, he was crushed beneath the crumbled wall.

A friend and Alabama teammate of Servati tweeted that his mother wished only for two things: That her son would swim at the University of Alabama and that someday he would die a hero. John Servati fulfilled his mom’s wishes.

Photo courtesy of the University of Alabama via Facebook

Photo courtesy of the University of Alabama via Facebook

In Mississippi, Ruth Bennett died clutching the last child left at her daycare center as a tornado wiped the building off its foundation. A firefighter who came upon the body gently pulled the four year old from her arms.

Bennett was among at least 35 people killed in a two-day outbreak of tornadoes and other violent weather that destroyed homes from the Midwest to the Deep South. The child, whose name was not released, was alive when she was pulled from Bennett’s arms and was taken to a hospital. Her condition was not known. UPDATE: She is improving! Read the story here.

Ruth Bennett had a passion for caring for kids. In the end, she gave her life so that 4 year old 4 year old Ashtyn Rose Mitchell could live.

Ruth Bennett had a passion for caring for kids. In the end, she gave her life so that 4 year old 4 year old Ashtyn Rose Mitchell could live.

Daniel Wassom, husband and father of two, was huddled in a hallway of his Arkansas home during the storm with his wife, daughters, and a neighbor. At the height of the tornado, a large piece of lumber crashed toward the family. Wassom, who served in the Air Force, shielded five year old Lorelei, taking the brunt of the fatal blow to his neck. Lorelei suffered a shoulder injury and was hospitalized.

Wassom, a father of two daughters — Lorelei, 5, and Sydney, 7 — died Sunday sheltering his family from the tornado. Photo courtesy of the Wassom family.

Wassom, a father of two daughters — Lorelei, 5, and Sydney, 7 — died Sunday sheltering his family from the tornado. Photo courtesy of the Wassom family.

Our parents should be a hero to each of us, respectively.

My dad was a hero to me. In fact, he might as well have been Superman, without the speed, the power, or leaping ability. My dad was a juvenile diabetic who lost his eyesight in his twenties. In spite of his inability to see, he still went to work every day, setting a great example for my brother and me. Our hero died at 35 but lives in our hearts forever.

For many of us, athletes are our heroes. Bo Jackson was and is a hero to me. Not only was he one of the greatest athletes the world had ever seen, but, like me, he stuttered. As a child, I knew very few people who were afflicted with stuttering. Bo could’ve simply let his athleticism do the talking, pardon the pun, but he had a voice, and he used it.

Bo knows.

Bo knows.

Today’s definition of a hero is perhaps subjective, but, whether we know it or not, rest assured, there are many heroes among us. More than likely, there is a hero in you.

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

Riding in a windowless Humvee on a cold, wet, and snowy morning in Iraq in Feb 2004.

Riding in a windowless Humvee on a cold, wet, and snowy morning in Iraq in Feb 2004.