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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Thanks from a Veteran

Each year, I post this but always tweak it a bit. Please take a look. Thank you.

For Veterans Day, I’d like to thank each and every service member who has ever stepped foot on foreign soil. To keep in line with the original intent of Veterans Day, I’ll even go a step further and thank every service member who has ever had the honor and privilege of wearing the uniform.

Veterans Day is set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military, be it in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, whereas Memorial Day is a day to honor those who died during battle or as a direct result of injuries sustained during battle.

I am a veteran and am very proud of my service, but the respect I have for those who came before me and my generation is immeasurable.

Basic Training (Aug 1992)

Basic Training (Aug 1992)

The origin of Veterans Day can be traced back to honoring the veterans of WWI. I’m proud to acknowledge that my grandfather, Herbert Lee Fuller, was one of those men who fought so bravely in WWI.

Paw Paw Fuller, sometime during WWI

Paw Paw Fuller, sitting down, sometime around WWI 

Those who served in WWII were truly the cream of the crop of “The Greatest Generation.”

I have great respect and admiration for those who served in the Korean War, which sadly is often referred to as “The Forgotten War.” No war should ever be forgotten.

The veterans of Vietnam deserve our respect, appreciation, and support now more than ever. The way they were treated upon their return from is a sad chapter in our nation’s great history, but there is sufficient time to correct that mistake.

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Lastly, I’ve had the honor of serving with many great warriors who valiantly served during the Gulf War and the current Global War on Terrorism. I can’t possibly name everyone I served with but I think they know how much love and respect I have for each of them.

I touched on each of the major conflicts of the past hundred years so that none of them will be forgotten. We owe a great debt of gratitude to those who serve and no one’s service should ever be forgotten.

In 2011, Frank Buckles, the last surviving veteran of WWI passed away. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, WWII veterans are dying at the alarming rate of more than 1,000 a day. Quite simply, these great Americans are responsible for our very way of life. There is still time to go out of your way to pay respect for these immortal heroes. For most, a sincere “thank you” will suffice.

The next time you see a gentleman wearing a WWII, Korean War, or Vietnam War veteran hat, I highly encourage you to approach him and thank him for his service. Furthermore, if it’s a Vietnam veteran, welcome him home. It’ll make him feel good but it’ll do even more for you. I’ve been welcomed home from war on three different occasions. Each time, there was a variety of pomp and circumstance. Sadly, the Vietnam vets failed to receive such adoration.

Today, I spent the morning at the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City, Alabama, with friends, family, and heroes of past wars. Unfortunately, many of those same heroes are now alone with few friends and little family, if any. It’s incumbent upon us to see that they are not alone, so I encourage you to visit your local veterans home from time to time. It shouldn’t be a chore to spend a little time with those who helped to provide the freedom you enjoy each and every day.

The most alarming issue facing veterans today is the suicide rate. Presently, a veteran is taking his or her own life approximately every 80 minutes. This rate is completely unacceptable and the identification and prevention of suicide has become a top priority of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Whether or not you support war is irrelevant; you have to support the troops. They serve voluntarily so you or your loved ones don’t have to serve involuntarily. This hasn’t always been the case.

On a personal level, there wasn’t a day that went by on my latest deployment that I didn’t receive a letter, a postcard, an email, or a package from a grateful American. Over the years, the support for the Global War on Terrorism has dwindled; however, the support for the troops has never been higher, so on behalf of each and every service member who has ever had the honor of wearing the uniform, I want to thank each and every one of YOU for your past, present, and future support. We couldn’t do what we do without it.

Thank you.

Jody Fuller is 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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Veterans Day: A Day of Celebration

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Last year, I took a character strengths survey for the Army. It is a 240 item, scientifically validated, questionnaire that provides a rank order of an adult’s 24 character strengths.

While the ranking of some of the character strengths left me baffled, the top character strength did not. Topping the list for me was gratitude.

Take your own survey now. You’ll find it interesting.

Gratefulness is November’s character trait for Opelika, a City of Character.

I have so much to be grateful for, but with Veterans Day upon us, I want to focus on our veterans, for whom I give thanks to every day.

Recently, I told a forty something year old friend of mine that had the U.S. not defeated the Axis powers in WWII, we’d all be speaking German. His reply was classic. “Not me. I can’t speak German.”

Last Sunday, I had the honor of attending the birthday party of 90 year old Husky Kirkwood, a Navy pilot during WWII. Not only was it an honor due to his rightful place in The Greatest Generation but also because according to him, it wasn’t a “phonebook crowd.” He didn’t just scroll through the phonebook looking for folks to invite; he only invited select personnel. Like I said, it was an honor.

Husky in his new birthday suit.

Husky in his new birthday suit. I wore a Navy shirt in his honor, which was tough for an Army guy.

This is the P2V5F, one of the planes Husky flew in the Navy.

This is the P2V5F, one of the planes Husky flew in the Navy.

As one can imagine, the “phonebook crowd” drives a lot of Buicks. I believe there were more Buicks at Husky’s house that day, per capita, than anywhere else in America.

Also, as you can imagine, the “phonebook crowd” consisted of many Veterans.

I know there were multiple WWII Veterans in attendance, as well as those from Vietnam. There was at least one from Desert Storm and even a couple of us from Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s ironic that I didn’t mention the Korean War, which sadly is referred to as The Forgotten War; however, I didn’t forget about it and neither should you. I assume some of the guys served in Korea but it never came up in conversation. Perhaps they’ve tried to forget and for good reason. War is hell and Korea ranks right up there near the top.

While many people see Veterans Day as a sad day, I do not. I see it as a celebration for all who have served; those for whom deserve our unwavering gratitude.

It shouldn’t be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.

I missed out on a well-paying Veterans Day speaking engagement in California this year, because I stood my ground. I told the event planner that I could speak about anything but to expect a few laughs along the way, because Veterans Day shouldn’t be a somber day; it should be a day of celebration. Apparently that was too much for him to handle, but I’m ok with that and that’s what ultimately counts. You got to stand for something.

But for many, the celebration will soon be ending. According to the VA, we are losing 800-1000 WWII veterans each and every day, so the time to show your gratitude is now.

In recent months, many of my friends from around the country have been showering veterans with birthday cards.

My friend from Fairhope told me about her uncle who fought in WWII. He is 91 years old and blind. His wife died 15 years ago and all he has left is my friend and her mom.

As of Monday, he’d received 26 birthday cards and was deeply moved and brought to tears by the love and gratitude sent his way. He feels special knowing that he is not forgetten.

Uncle Bill message

It doesn’t have to be a holiday for you to reach out to veterans.

We are also losing Korean War veterans at an alarming rate.

Vietnam veterans were loathed by many during their era, so the time to sincerely thank them for answering their nation’s call for a very unpopular war is now.

I deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom three times, each time coming home to a bigger celebration. Sadly, the guys from Vietnam were spat upon and advised not to wear their uniform upon their return. The time to thank them and welcome them home is now.

I’m not forgetting about my generation of vets, I just ask that you focus on the older ones first. We plan on being around for a while, but if you see a younger veteran who is struggling, please reach out to him or her.

I encourage you to do something special this Veterans Day weekend. Make a phone call or two. Send a card. Drop by to see a friend. Visit your local veterans home. Bake some cookies. Who doesn’t like cookies?

I plan of taking a veteran or two to lunch on Monday. Heck, I might even drive them in style. Does anyone have a Buick I can borrow?

My "grandpa" is a WWII veteran and pinned on my lieutenant bars at Ft. Benning in Jan 2003. He's not really my grandpa but that's what I call him.

My “grandpa” is a WWII veteran and pinned on my lieutenant bars at Ft. Benning in Jan 2003. He’s not really my grandpa but that’s what I call him. He has a Buick.

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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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.