Edward Mayberry describes himself as “an old country boy” even though his time as a sergeant in the United States Army took 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 Athens Senior Center and the simple things.
Mayberry was born in Athens in 1945 and raised on the east side of the city. He grew up working on the family's chicken farm in the egg room where he learned at a young age how to grade the eggs. He attended Pleasant Grove School as a youngster and later attended Dogwood Junior High until the ninth grade. He went on to graduate from Trinity High School in 1963 and played on the varsity football team.
“I wore number 81 and I played end or wide receiver,” he said. “I played basketball during junior high 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 his Trinity High School friends and football buddies.
“It's a lot of fun. We get together,” he said. “The whole class gets together and we have reunions. We used to joke and teach other back when we were on the 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.
“I worked in building 4200, and I think they are about to tear that down,” he said. “I used to go up and down those stairs all day delivering mail and stuff.”
After two years in the arsenal mailroom, he made the decision to join the United States Army. This was 1965 — the year the United States entered the Vietnam War.
“In a way, working on the arsenal influenced me. I would see the dudes coming through there with their uniforms and they looked sharp,” Mayberry said.
Mayberry completed his basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., and after, he was sent to Fort Ord, Calif.. He said, “After Ord, I went to Hawaii with the 25th Infantry and they were loading up to go to Vietnam. I only stayed in Hawaii for about a month before we left.”
Mayberry's tour in Vietnam began in 1966 and ended in 1967 and he said of the experience, “I was too young and stupid to realize it was terrible.”
The soldiers of the 25th Infantry, including Mayberry, were sent to Cu Chi District, located northwest of Saigon in South Vietnam.
“During monsoon season, it rained all day and all night,” he said. “We'd be out there on patrol; it would rain constantly. The Viet Cong, they were good at setting boobie traps and you really had to watch that. We had what you called a lead man and before I got on up in the ranks, I used to be a lead man. I'd be there and have to watch for those booby traps.”
Being teased about his Alabama roots still brings a smile and a chuckle to Mayberry.
He said, “They used to give me a hard time. They'd joke with me about picking cotton. They'd always say, 'Let me see your shoulder that you put your cotton sack on.' Being from Alabama, you always got it. We joked around all the time but that made it better.”
When Mayberry first arrived in the United States after his tour in Vietnam, the welcome he and his soldiers received was less than friendly.
“I am going to be frank, I don't think we got the benefit that the World War I, World War II and Korean War guys did,” he said. “When we came home, we flew into Oakland, Calif. When we were getting off the plane, a bunch of protesters were there yelling at us and calling us 'baby killers' and all that kind of stuff. Over the years, I guess I got over that. Sometimes, when I would lay down in bed, I would get to thinking about it. I'd think to myself, 'I'm out there risking my life for you and you are out here calling me names.'”
With his tour in Vietnam over, Mayberry was sent to Germany with the 3rd Armored Division. In Vietnam, Mayberry had earned the rank of specialist four and was promoted to sergeant when he arrived in Germany. He decided to leave the Army after three years of service.
“I came home to Athens for Christmas leave and I got married,” he said.
He met his wife-to-be, Frances Garrett, while in school at Trinity.
“I think I spotted her long before she knew I was looking at her,” he said. “I ended up taking her to prom as friends but I was trying.”
The first thing he noticed about Frances was her gorgeous long hair.
“She was a beautiful little thing,” he said.
Sometime after high school, Edward and Frances did become sweethearts and marry. He returned to Germany after their wedding but she stayed in Athens. Nine months later, his time in the service was over and he returned home to begin life with his new bride. He still stays in touch with several of his Army buddies who are spread out around the country.
Not long after returning home, Mayberry found a job at Monsanto in Decatur where he worked for 31 years before retiring.
“I was a paramedic too,” he said. “They had a medical team at work and that's how I ended up going to 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 both and is enjoying 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.
“It's better than just sitting at the house. Our son came up here and signed us up,” he said. “As people get older, they need something to look forward to each day. I enjoy it up here. I really do.
Edward and Frances Mayberry have two children, Michael and Kwandia. They also have two grandchildren.