Edward Mayberry describes himself as an “old country boy,” although his time as a sergeant in the United States Army has taken him around the world. Now retired after more than 30 years working at Monsanto in Decatur and even longer as a paramedic in Limestone County, he and his wife, Frances, enjoy spending time with their friends at the Seniors Center in ‘Athens and the simple things.
Mayberry was born in Athens in 1945 and raised in the eastern part of the city. He grew up working on the family egg room chicken farm where he learned how to grade eggs at a young age. He attended Pleasant Grove School in his youth and then attended Dogwood Junior High School until ninth grade. He then graduated from Trinity High School in 1963 and played on the college football team.
âI was number 81 and played as a winger or wide receiver,â he said. âI played basketball in middle school but didn’t want to play in high school. In high school all the basketball players were taller than me.
Mayberry still keeps in touch with several of her Trinity High School friends and football buddies.
âIt’s a lot of fun. We get together,â he said. âThe whole class gets together and we have meetings. We used to joke around and teach each other when we were in there. football team and now when we get together we do the exact same thing.
After high school, Mayberry took a job at Redstone Arsenal, working in the mailroom.
âI worked in building 4200, and I think they are about to demolish it,â he said. âI used to go up and down these stairs all day to deliver mail and stuff. “
After two years in the arsenal mailroom, he made the decision to join the United States Army. It was 1965, the year the United States entered the Vietnam War.
âIn a way, working on the arsenal influenced me. I saw the guys come up with their uniforms on and they looked good, âMayberry said.
Mayberry completed his basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., And after that he was dispatched to Fort Ord, Calif. I only stayed in Hawaii about a month before we left.
Mayberry’s tour of Vietnam started in 1966 and ended in 1967 and he said of the experience: âI was too young and stupid to realize it was terrible.
Soldiers from the 25th Infantry, including Mayberry, were dispatched to Cu Chi district, located northwest of Saigon in South Vietnam.
âDuring the monsoon it rained all day and all night,â he said. âWe would be on patrol there; it was raining constantly. The Viet Cong, they were good at setting traps and you really had to be careful of that. We had what you called a leader and before I came up in the ranks I was a leader. I would be there and I should watch out for these traps.
Being teased about her roots in Alabama always brings a smile and a chuckle to Mayberry.
He said, âThey were giving me a hard time. They joked with me about picking cotton. They always said, “Let me see your shoulder you put your cotton bag on.” Being from Alabama, you’ve always understood that. We joked all the time, but it made it better.
When Mayberry first arrived in the United States after his tour of Vietnam, the reception he and his soldiers received was less than friendly.
âI’m going to be blunt, I don’t think we got the advantage that the guys from WWI, WWII, and the Korean War had,â he said. âWhen we got home, we landed in Oakland, California. When we got off the plane, a group of protesters was there yelling at us and calling us “baby killers” and all that sort of thing. Over the years, I guess I got over that. Sometimes when I lay down in my bed, I would think about it. I was like, ‘I’m risking my life for you and you’re insulting me here.’ “
After his tour of Vietnam was over, Mayberry was sent to Germany with the 3rd Armored Division. In Vietnam, Mayberry had achieved specialist rank four and was promoted to sergeant upon arrival in Germany. He decides to leave the army after three years of service.
âI came back to Athens for the Christmas holidays and got married,â he said.
He met his future wife, Frances Garrett, while he was in school at Trinity.
âI think I spotted her long before she knew I was looking at her,â he said. “I ended up taking her to the prom as friends but I was trying.”
The first thing he noticed about Frances was her gorgeous long hair.
âShe was a lovely little thing,â he said.
Some time after high school, Edward and Frances fell in love and got married. He returned to Germany after their marriage but she remained in Athens. Nine months later, his time of service was over and he returned home to begin his life with his new wife. He still keeps in touch with several of his army buddies who are scattered across the country.
Shortly after returning home, Mayberry found a job with Monsanto in Decatur where he worked for 31 years before retiring.
âI was a paramedic too,â he says. âThey had a medical team at work and that’s how I ended up going to a paramedic school and working part-time at Limestone Paramedic. After I retired from Monsanto, I worked for 10 more years as a paramedic.
Now Mayberry is retired from the two and enjoys staying at home. The couple enjoy traveling and visiting Frances’ family in Chicago. Tuesday through Friday of most weeks you will likely find Edward and Frances at the Athens Senior Center.
âIt’s better than sitting at home. Our son came here and signed us up, âhe said. âAs they get older, people need something to look forward to every day. I appreciate it here. I really do.
Edward and Frances Mayberry have two children, Michael and Kwandia. They also have two grandchildren.