By Van R. Mayhall, Sr.,
joined the military of one kind or another many years ago, National Guard in 1936, USA 1940, and USAR Corps in 1945, and stayed with the reserve corps until I finally retired as a full colonel. I had enjoyed the military, so it wasn't surprising to me that I had to stay in a uniform of some kind.
As a result of my retiring from the reserve corps, my name was in all of the Army computers, to say nothing of the fact that my name was of course in the Social Security computers.
In 1940, I had gone on active duty and spent three years in Europe as an infantry officer going from one detail to another. I wound up my overseas visit with the Ninetieth Infantry Division, "Tough Ombres," at Metz and Moselle River crossing and finally with the 8th Infantry Division in the Hurtgon Forest and Roer River crossing.
I had met another Mayhall family while we all were attending Louisiana State University. They were distant cousins, and the four of them joined one service or another. The youngest brother had to wait to get into the service because he was a little too young. He stayed in college and was commissioned through the ROTC. I believe his commission was in the engineers, and off to the wars he went. He liked being in the service, and he was good enough the Army liked him, so he stayed in for 20 years and retired as a full colonel.
This retiring from the Army put him in the Army computers. Col. John O. Mayhall retired in Indiana and decided to stay there close to Army posts and close to employment. Col. Mayhall stayed 15 years, and his health began to slow him down a little bit, so he and what was left of his family decided to come home to Louisiana. Part of his family lived in Baton Rouge, so he bought a house and settled down hoping to regain his health. Col. John O. Mayhall's health slowly went the wrong way.
John and I had been friends, and we talked over the phone a number of times. I think we ate out together a few times. He did not look like the picture of health, but he did not look like there was anything critical about him. However, there was; he died Oct. 28, 1995.
I went to his funeral and was very sad to think I had lost another blood kin, and the United States had lost another patriot who had served his country well. I went home from the funeral thinking the Honor Guard from Camp Polk had done a very professional job. The strains of "Taps" coming from far away made me remember so many still faces.
I went on about my business, nothing too strong, cutting the grass, picking up the fallen sticks in the yard, doing my normal go'fer jobs.
Then I got this phone call about a week after Col. John Mayhall's funeral. This phone call was from Mrs. John O. Mayhall. Mrs. Mayhall said, "Van, I am so embarrassed, I don't know what to do."
I wondered what in the world could Mrs. Mayhall be embarrassed about. She said to me, "John O.'s papers have come in, and your name is all over them." This made me wonder how in the world this could happen. It sounded like my friend, Col. John O., was in the flip top box and I was in there with him.
The Army acted fast, which I did not know they did. My name was taken off the roster. I didn't know this, as I was still wondering what to do, so I started phoning people who I thought knew how to straighten this out. I phoned one of the retired colonels on the retired board at Camp Polk and found him very sympathetic and would do what he could, right after he stopped laughing.
I still had not reached the panic button, but I was wondering where the button was kept. I phoned during the first week of November 1995 to Camp Polk, but I didn't seem to connect with the right people. The days sped past until the fifteenth day of November 1995, and the bank called up. The bank seemed to be curious as to why I kept on writing checks, considering what they knew about me. They wanted me to come down and cover the bouncing checks that I had written. I suggested that there should be no overdraft checks. The bank gave me a quick reply, "We have been notified that you are dead, and we have sent your Army check and your Social Security checks back."
I thought this was a little high-handed, as I had only been doing business with this bank for 50 years, and they had not phoned the house to ask any questions, nor had they sent me any flowers. So we went around and around, keeping it as clean as possible because it seemed I needed their help a lot worse than they needed mine.
This is when the panic button was struck, and I commenced to phone everybody who seemed they should know something about a situation like this.
I phoned Fort Polk and finally got close to the right people, and I found out that the family of Col. John O. Mayhall of Baton Rouge, La., had reported his death to someone taking calls during that period. This person was very efficient in running down the roster and found right away Col. Mayhall, Van R., of Baton Rouge, La. This was the name that was taken off the roster and put on Col. John O's papers.
I phoned Casualty Operations Center and they were very kind and they listened and said they would get it corrected. I phoned Cleveland, and they were very kind and they were going to get it all straightened out. I am not very sure what Cleveland, Ohio, has to do with what, but they know who you are, and they have those contractions in front of their P.O. Box like DFAS-CL. So I was beginning to feel a little bit better about the situation. I always liked the Army, and when they told you something, the information would nearly always be right. They didn't exactly say when it would be fixed.
At this time, between the fifteenth and twenty-fifth of November, I began to think about the Social Security aspect of this situation. I paid the Social Security office a visit. It was pleasant; the office was rather quite considering the other time I had been there. There was only one person at the windows, and may have been another back in the office. I finally realized that the difference of opinion between the president and the Congress had closed the government down, all the way to Baton Rouge. The lady at the window got to me and verified the shutdown, but she did talk to her computer and let me know that I was still in the computer. The lady made one very positive statement: she said, "You are in the computer now, but when those checks get back to where the bank returned them, you will be dead again." This did not really make me feel better about the situation; all of the phone calls and conversations would be for naught while all those checks were swirling around in the computers looking for a place to land.
The bank seemed to be not embarrassed but sympathetic. They started stuffing money into my account with no interest. This "no interest" made me feel that the bank felt there could have been a better way to handle a situation of this kind.
While at the Social Security office, I picked up a telephone number. It was an 800 number, and it invited people who needed information to use it. I started using it. I thought I would be calling the office here in Baton Rouge, but it turned out to be much more interesting than that. It seemed that each time I called, I got a different part of the country. I talked to a gentleman in Albuquerque twice, San Antonio office once, Dallas once and all of these guys were just as nice as they could be and promised to get to the bottom of the situation and get it corrected.
November dragged by, and December was here to celebrate Christmas, but the matter of money had not been settled. The more I phoned and talked to distant people, the more I was assured that this matter, of my being dead, would soon be over with and I would be an active member on the rosters of the Army and Social Security. Christmas came and went, and so did New Year's. A few days after New Year's, the bank called and let me know that all of the back checks had arrived. I could come down and write them a check for all of the money they had advanced me to keep afloat while I was dead.
Part of this little tale was humorous and part was not so humorous. I had not realized that I would have to make out income tax in a new year for this extra money that had arrived in a new year. So, I am undead for now, for awhile. I am receiving the paper "Army Echoes" regularly, and the bank hasn't called lately, so I feel fine.
I do wonder if my dear cousin "Col. John O." was of the nature that he played subtle jokes on people. I wonder if possible that we will meet sometime and we can have a big laugh at what his departing left behind.
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