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.

JC Mayfield

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.

JC and Me

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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Punctuality Shows Respect

When I finally woke up that morning, it was a quarter after nine and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. I don’t think I took a shower and I’m pretty sure I gargled with milk while speeding toward the National Guard armory.

This traumatizing event took place in June of 2006. It was my first day in the Alabama National Guard. I was two hours late.

“Get here when you can,” said a smiling Lieutenant Colonel Gore when I walked through those doors.

If you don’t know, “Get here when you can” is not a term of endearment.

What a way to make a first impression!

In all my years in the Regular Army, I was never late, although I cut it close a few times, but close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and according to my Uncle Wayne, dancing.

Little Fulla and Uncle Wayne...a year or two ago.

Little Fulla and Uncle Wayne…a year or two ago.

To the best of my fleeting knowledge, that’s my only transgression regarding tardiness at my unit. There have been times I showed up and did nothing but at least I showed up and did nothing in a timely and punctual manner.

I tell every Soldier that the secret to success in the military is simple: be at the right place, at the right time, in the right uniform, with the right attitude. Everything else takes care of itself.

I failed to follow my own advice that first day and have been ribbed about it ever since, in a joking manner, of course.

Punctuality is the character trait for the month of September in the city of Opelika. Punctuality, of course, means being on time or prompt with respect to meetings, appointments, or projects such as submissions of newspaper articles to the Opelika Observer.

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I recently created a project with a specified deadline where I requested birthday cards from around the country for a local World War II hero. Knowing that people in general have problems with punctuality, I fidgeted with the date to ensure the cards were received prior to his birthday. Although I appreciate each and every person who took the time to show their respect for this hero, the manipulation of the date turned out to be a good call on my part.

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Speaking of World War II heroes, I recently spent the day with one who was in town visiting his daughter, my 11th grade English teacher. I was told to be there at 3:00 and rest assured I was there well before the proposed time. The respect for my former teacher was enough to be punctual but the respect for her father was the proverbial icing on the cake.

The man makes some mean homemade peach ice cream!

The man makes some mean homemade peach ice cream!

Being late to this get-together was not an option and my punctuality was rewarded by incredibly inspiring and intriguing stories of his time in Europe during the war, not to mention the homemade peach ice cream that night.

As the newest member of the Opelika Character Council, I attended my first meeting last week and made sure I was there on time. In fact, I was the first person there.

My friend and fellow character council member, Jan Gunter, says it best: Punctuality shows your respect for others. People who make it a habit of showing up to meetings on time or handing in reports or projects on time are saying with their actions, “I respect you and understand that your time is just as valuable as mine.”

“If you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re late” is a rule of thumb and statement often heard in the military and is sound advice for us all in our daily lives.

There is, however, an exception to the rule when related to doctor’s appointments. In cases as such, just get there when you can, because you know the doctor will.

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.

The Power of Prayer…a Soldier’s Journey

The Power of Prayer…a Soldier’s Journey

In honor of this National Day of Prayer, I’d like to share with you the Power of Prayer.

I graduated from college in August 2001. A month later, the tragic events of 9/11 unfolded and changed my life forever.

Before attending college, I was an enlisted man in the Army. In the wake of such a catastrophic event, I felt the need to serve once again; however, that didn’t happen right away.

Foolishly, I’d quit my job at Kroger six months prior to graduation with the rationale that I’d have no trouble finding employment upon graduation. In fact, I anticipated having a job prior to graduation. Both were miscalculations on my part.

I’d saved enough money to make ends meet as long as no monkey wrenches entered the equation. Unfortunately, the monkey wrenches kicked in the door and brought baboon hammers with them.

To say times were tough is like saying Harvey Updyke likes Alabama.

I experienced everything from an eviction to a blown transmission to harassing phone calls from bill collectors to strained relationships with loved ones. If it was negative, there’s a good chance I experienced it.

My credit got so bad that I got turned down for a paper route. Times were tough.

Along this dark journey, I’d often find myself in prayer, simply asking the Lord to help me make it. At the time, I thought it meant I was asking Him to absolve me of the challenges in my life. In hindsight, He did exactly what I asked of Him. One day at a time, He helped me make it.

I reported to Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning, Georgia, on September 11, 2002.

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As my luck would have it, I was assigned to Alpha Company, notoriously known as “Alphatraz”, for a grueling 14 weeks of training.

I’m not exactly sure when, where, or how but sometime early on I injured my right knee. What initially began as mild discomfort would eventually become unbearably excruciating pain.

I was hesitant about going on sick call, because an extended profile, which restricts physical activity, would cause me to miss training and to likely be recycled to another company.

The culminating event of this ordeal took place in the wee hours of a chilly Fort Benning morning as we started what was to be a relatively short road march fully equipped with ruck sacks and training weapons known as rubber ducks.

Within a matter of minutes, I was using the rubber duck as a crutch as tears streamed down my face. I was forced to abandon the march and take refuge in the truck that was following our formation.

Make no mistake about it; the pain was immense but the tears had more to do with the trials and tribulations I’d experienced over the past year coming to a head combined with a real sense of hopelessness.

By the time I got to sick call that morning, my knee was about three times its normal size. I was given an initial 10-day profile and would indeed be recycled. I was devastated.

I prayed that night. I mean, I really prayed. I felt connected in a way in which I have only experienced on one other occasion. Perhaps one day, I’ll share that story.

As usual, the lights were abruptly turned on the next morning at “o dark 30.” Upon first call each day, we had only five minutes to be standing outside in formation ready to start the day.

As I readied myself to jump down from the top bunk, I grimaced while anticipating the agonizing pain that would soon follow, but much to my surprise, I stuck that landing like Mary Lou Retton at the ’84 Summer Olympics in LA. There was no pain. Zero. Nil. Nothing. The swelling had disappeared, too.

I was astonished by what appeared to be a miraculous healing but wasn’t completely convinced so I maintained my profile for the remainder of that day.

The next day, however, I returned to sick call and convinced the doctor to rescind my profile. Although there were other speed bumps along the way, none of them involved a bum knee.

I went on to graduate from Officer Candidate School and was sworn in as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army on January 10, 2003.

The pinning ceremony with my mother and my "grandpa."

The pinning ceremony with my mother and my “grandpa.”

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.

The day I raised my right hand and stated the oath of office is undoubtedly the proudest moment of my life, and without blinking an eye, I can say that it never would have happened without the power of prayer.

The power of prayer got me to and through OCS and has allowed me to serve admirably as a commissioned officer for the past decade, which includes three tours of duty in Iraq.

Prayer fuels me daily and is a whole lot cheaper than that stuff you pump into your vehicle.

Without it, I hate to think where I’d be.

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