The mind of a soldier, in any branch of the service, is a mind that many of us do not understand. They go into situations that would send most of us running for the nearest hole to hide in, and then…when they write home or call home, they make light of the things they are doing…if they tell their family about their missions at all, because they don’t want to worry their loved ones. Often, if the family finds out about the missions they were on at all, it is years later. Maybe it is that they had to wrap their own minds around the things they had done, before they could tell anyone else about it. My dad, Allen Spencer was that way. In the letters he wrote home to his family, and especially his mother, his words were always very upbeat, very careful not to say the wrong things…things that might make them fear for his life, more than they already did. My nephew, Allen Spencer Beach, my dad’s namesake, is much like his grandfather in that way.
When Allen joined the Navy in 2009, it was to be part of the Naval Air Force. Part of his training was parachuting from a plane. At some point in his training, Allen injured his foot, and while the injury itself would not have stopped him from continuing in his chosen field, it delayed training long enough so that he wouldn’t be able to catch up with his class. It was at this point that Allen decided to become a medic. All of that information was known to most of his family at that time. It was certain parts of Allen’s work after that time that was only known to his family a number of years later. After the 7.0 earthquake that occurred in Haiti on January 12, 2010, Allen was one of the soldiers who was sent in to assist. I think most of us saw pictures of the devastation there, and the loss of life, but I seriously doubt that the news media showed us some of the worst parts of the devastation. It would be too much for many people to bare. I’m sure that is why Allen, like his grandfather, couldn’t tell his mother everything he did or saw. He had to process it himself, and put enough time between the event and his mother’s knowledge of it, so that hopefully she would not worry too much. I also have to wonder if his experience in Haiti is what made him decide to become a medic after his foot injury.
My sister, Caryl Reed, also found out, after the fact, that at one point, her son, Allen was training to be a medic for the Marines. Had he been needed, Allen would have become a medic on the front lines in a war zone. Here again, Allen knew that there needed to be enough time between the event and his mother’s knowledge of it, so she would not have nightmares. When she found out about that, all my sister could think was, “Thank the Lord that he didn’t have to go.” It was a mother’s second worst nightmares…the first being that her son actually goes to the front lines. A soldier has to push their own fear down as deep as they can, and make light of things with their loved ones, because they can imagine the anguish for their family, if they knew that truth…that they are in situations that really scare them, and they have no control over it. It is the experiences we live that help us to decide the direction our life will take. For Allen, what began as a career as maybe a pilot, has changed to a career in several different areas of medicine. From corpsman, to training as a field medic, to studying to be a hospital administrator. Allen left active duty in 2014, and lives in Washington DC, while his wife, Gabby finishes her service, and he finishes his studies. I know he will have a bright future. Today is Allen’s birthday. Happy birthday Allen!! Have a great day!! We love you!!