Mark Fields graduated from Leavenworth High School in 1981 and included among his many other honors was a Les Novelettes scholarship.
Looking back over 30 years, he admits that he was very fortunate to have had several college opportunities. He received appointments to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy; both Army and Air Force four-year ROTC scholarships; and football scholarships to various NCAA Division 1 schools.
Mark says that parents and students sometimes forget that even full academic or athletic scholarships require some initial personal costs. Upon graduation, Mark accepted the Air Force Academy appointment and says that the Les Novelettes scholarship was a major blessing. He used the scholarship to offset his required initial uniform costs – the exact amount of the scholarship.
Mark attended the Air Force Academy for two years and played football until a knee injury sidelined him at the end of his first year. In 1983, Mark transferred to the University of Kansas. Following graduation, he attended Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI where he was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy. He proudly served 20 years until his retirement in 2007 at the rank of commander.
Mark's choice to serve in the Navy was greatly influenced by growing up in a military community, participating in JROTC and generations of family members who served before him. Mark's great-grandfather was a Buffalo Soldier and he recalls the many stories his grandmother told about her father's proud service.
Mark and three of his brothers served a combined total of nearly 70 years. He often jokes that the U.S. Navy gave ..." a kid from Leavenworth , Kansas an opportunity to have fun and see the world."
Mark enjoyed an exciting Naval Surface Warfare Officer career. He served aboard five U.S. Navy ships and held the positions of Division Officer; Combat Systems Officer; and Executive Officer. Ashore, he served as commanding officer for two Naval Reserve Centers; executive officer, Assault Craft Unit FOUR-Little Creek, VA; Naval Instructor-Newport, RI; and two consecutive Washington, D.C. staff tours.
Mark finds it difficult to pinpoint a specific career highlight, but he's always ready to admit that he thoroughly enjoyed his at-sea assignments and his Naval Instructor tour. He says "at-sea assignments were very challenging, but to train a group of sailors from various backgrounds and see them deploy as a team is very rewarding. He's very proud to say that many of his former students are serving as commanding officers aboard U.S. Navy ships today.
After retirement in 2007, he relocated to Tuscaloosa, AL. He continues to convey the same message to younger generations about the value of community service. He was the keynote speaker for the 2010 and 2011 Veterans Day programs and annually, he participates in local high school senior awards day programs and as a member of the local Retired Military Officers Association, he has presented awards to local JROTC students. During each presentation, he stresses the following four foundations to his personal success:
Page 2 of 3 - FAMILY
Mark's family is and has always been a cornerstone in his life.His parents, Charles and Theresa Fields, raised seven children. They both worked (Dad had two jobs) but still found time to actively participate in their children's lives. His parents believed in setting the right example and leading from the front. Mark says that his parents didn't drop their children off at church – they took them to church. He and his wife, Joyce, have worked hard to instill those same values in their two daughters.
"When Dad passed away in May of this year, Mom and Dad had recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. Joyce's parents have also been married for more than 50 years. I have no doubt that their success in raising their respective families is due to their strong resolve to place the tenets of God first."
Education is key to life's successes. Classroom learning affords us a structured environment in which to foster the learning process. Mark says that he can still remember each teacher from kindergarten through graduation. Although he enjoyed learning from every teacher, he must admit that some of his favorites include: Mrs. Hanna (Third Avenue School); Mrs. Nancy Esher ( Nettie Hartnett); Rev. R.L. Baynham (East Jr. High); Mrs. Patti Bailey (LHS); and Lt. Col. Jack Santulli (LHS ROTC) and Roy Simpson (LHS ROTC).
Mark participated in athletics at a very early age. He believes that athletic competition teaches that success can be achieved through hard work and perserverance. Mark says he learned mental toughness and sportmanship while playing sports with his older brothers and other neighborhood kids on the old 5th Avenue School playgrounds. In 1981, Mark was selected to the All-State football team. Mark is quick to mention that his LHS senior class still stands as arguably one of the best football teams in LHS history and says "In my opinion , the class of '81 had some fantastic athletes whose achievements still rank among the best to this day.
Service can come in many forms – military, church, community or school and everyone can serve in some capacity. While many organizations need financial donations to further their goals, most organizations appreciate an individual's personal time. Student tutoring and job internships are also great service opportunities.
Throughout his naval career, Mark's family particiated in community service. His wife, Joyce, volunteered with the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society and is a current member of the American Legion's Ladies Auxiliary.
Finally, Mark says that "great organizations such as Les Novelettes aren't successful by accident. These organizations work year-round to create opportunities for young people every day in cities across the country."
Page 3 of 3 - Although Mark has not been able to spend much time in his hometown over the past 30 years, he still keeps in touch with family and classmates. He also continues to keep up with his hometown by reading the Leavenworth Times online edition.
He says, "Leavenworth will always be my home. I've been able to read the updates from some of the other scholarship recipients and like me, I think each recipient feels a unique sense of pride to be forever linked to an organization that has been an integral part of the Leavenworth/Lansing communities for generations and hopefully will continue to serve for many generations to come."