PARIS, TN, USA U.S. Marines LCPL, B CO, 3D BN, 24TH MAR, (1ST BN, 24TH MAR, RCT-5, 1 MEF FWD), NASHVILLE, TN FALLUJAH, IRAQ 12/28/2006
When Lance Corporal William “Billy” D. Spencer saw his squad leader wounded in an Iraq shootout, he did the only thing he could do: He tried to save his commanding officer.
Spencer was killed in the process, hit by enemy fire on Dec. 28, 2006, in Al Anbar province. Nearly two years later, Spencer was awarded the Silver Star — the U.S. military’s third-highest honor — in a ceremony at Nashville State Community College on Sunday afternoon.
“I knew when he joined that he was going to give all he had to give,” said Julia Lockaby, Spencer’s mother. “My greatest fear came true.”
Spencer was born in Cincinnati but grew up in Paris, Tenn., where he played football at Henry County High School and enjoyed reading to schoolchildren, said father David Spencer.
After graduating in 2004, Billy Spencer trained with the Nashville-based I Company reserve unit of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. In late 2006, Spencer and 75 Nashville-based members of the 3rd Battalion went to Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment.
Killed during a firefight, Spencer, a rifleman, was three months into his Iraq tour when his squad went out on a mission to investigate a suspected enemy sniper. When his squad leader went down in an ensuing firefight, Spencer was shot trying to drag him to safety.
Both died from their injuries.
“I got a text message on what he had done, and when I read it … I made it a personal mission for him to be recognized,” said Maj. Sean M. Roche of the 3rd Battalion.
Spencer had previously been publicly recognized with three other fallen Marines in May 2007, before the Silver Star award. At Sunday’s ceremony, his parents were presented with the award in front of a theater packed with Spencer’s fellow Marines.
David Spencer plans to place the award in the Ohio museum he’s starting to commemorate fallen military heroes. He remembers Billy with a painting of him on his truck tailgate and a tattoo of Billy on his arm.
He plans to add a Silver Star to each.
“I’ve had people tell me that time heals all wounds,” he said. “I don’t believe that to be true, because my wound, I tend to it every morning when I get up … I dress that wound every day.”