16 April 2009: Ray Spencer

Ray Anthony Spencer II

Ray Anthony Spencer II

“Lance Cpl. Ray A. Spencer II, 20, of Ridgecrest, Calif., died April 16 as a result of a non-hostile incident in Anbar province, Iraq.” — Source: Department of Defense



DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

Release No: 263-09
April 21, 2009

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Ray A. Spencer II, 20, of Ridgecrest, Calif., died April 16 as a result of a non-hostile incident in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

The incident is currently under investigation.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the Marine Corps Public Affairs Office, Kaneohe Bay at (808) 257-8871.

Source: Department of Defense

Gunshot kills Marine in Iraq

Remains of Lance Corporal Ray Spencer, Kilo Company. Dover Air Force Base. 18 April 2009. Copyright © Associated Press 2009.

Remains of Lance Corporal Ray Spencer, Kilo Company. Dover Air Force Base. 18 April 2009. Copyright © Associated Press 2009.

Dan Nakaso | April 22, 2009

Marine Lance Cpl. Ray A. Spencer II was shot in the chest and killed Thursday while on base in Anbar province in Iraq, his widow said yesterday, making Spencer at least the fifth noncombat-related death of a Hawai’i military member since early February.

The Marine who came to Athena Spencer’s door to break the news of Spencer’s death said an investigation continues, but said her husband did not commit suicide.

“They found him with a gunshot wound to the chest,” Athena Spencer said yesterday from her parents’ home in Orange County, Calif. “It was clearly from someone else. They said, ‘Don’t make any speculations that it was or wasn’t another Marine.’ They said it was nonhostile. It wasn’t an enemy, but they said that could change.”

The Department of Defense would only say that Spencer’s death occurred from “a nonhostile incident” that is under investigation.

Spencer reported to Hawai’i in January 2007 as a rifleman assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, at Kane’ohe Bay.

His father had served in the Navy and Spencer joined the Marines at age 17, right after graduating from high school in Southern California in 2006.

“He wanted to be Marine infantry because they say it’s the hardest thing to do,” Athena said. “He wanted to protect his country.”

Ray and Athena were introduced by friends via phone and e-mail. Their communications turned to romance during Spencer’s first deployment to Iraq from August 2007 to February 2008. They met face-to-face for the first time in April 2008 and were married on June 18.

They were 20-year-old newlyweds who lived in a small studio apartment in Enchanted Lake in Kailua until Spencer shipped out this month for his second deployment to Iraq.

“He’s just a genuinely sweet person,” Athena said. “He respects women and people in general. He’s never the type of guy to be rude. He was so polite and laid back, never aggressive.”

His death has stunned the small town of Ridgecrest, a community of 28,000 people in the high desert of Southern California that has only one high school, Burroughs High School, according to Jim Selle, Burroughs’ senior naval science instructor who taught Spencer as a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Navy cadet.

Spencer is the first Burroughs graduate to die in Iraq or Afghanistan, Selle said.

“It’s a small town where everybody knows everybody,” Selle said. “It’s definitely got people talking.”

The school plans a ceremony tomorrow in which cadets will lower the U.S. flag to half-staff and fire a cannon in Spencer’s honor.

“He was a tall skinny kid who always had a smile on his face,” Selle said. “I don’t think I ever saw him without one. He came in and wanted to be a Marine and he was going to be a Marine. He achieved his goal.”

Another of Spencer’s JROTC instructors, George Anderson, said Spencer had a great sense of humor, blended with natural leadership.

“He was a very charismatic young man,” Anderson said. “He could get his students to follow him into the jaws of death, which they would have ignored from other students.”

Copyright © Honolulu Advertiser 2009

Marine Lance Cpl. Ray A. Spencer II, 20, Ridgecrest; died in a ‘nonhostile incident’ in Iraq

He died a few days into his second tour in April after shooting himself in the chest, according to a Marine Corps investigation.

Bettina Boxall | July 12, 2009

When Marine Lance Cpl. Ray A. Spencer II and his future wife were first getting to know each other, they found a mutual interest in history.

Spencer’s favorite eras were Greek and Roman. He liked stories of ancient battles. “Nerdy stuff,” remembered his widow, Athena Spencer.

At Burroughs High School in Ridgecrest, Calif., he enrolled in the Junior ROTC program. “From the day I met him, his lifelong dream was to be a Marine,” said George Anderson, who taught Spencer naval science during his freshman year.

Within weeks of graduating from Burroughs, Spencer acted on his dream.

“Ray joined when he was 17,” said his father, a retired Navy man. “He had a love of the Marine Corps which I could never understand.”

Tall, on the skinny side and well-liked by his classmates, Spencer was determined to be a soldier, even against the advice of his father and Anderson, who assured him the military “wasn’t all guns and glory and pretty uniforms.”

As a teenager, Spencer had a great sense of humor that Anderson said got him “in little bits of trouble.”

He was also a leader.

“The students just loved the guy,” Anderson said. “They would follow him anywhere.”

While in boot camp, the teenager returned to Burroughs with a recruiter, “gung-ho” and “very proud of that uniform,” Anderson recalled.

Spencer, a rifleman, was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

He shipped out for his first deployment to Iraq in July 2007, about the same time he struck up a phone and e-mail relationship with Athena. Friends had put them in touch.

“He was really sweet and caring and just different from other guys,” said Athena, 20.

They didn’t meet until March 2008, when Spencer was home on leave visiting family. Within months, they were married and she joined him in Hawaii.

“He was perfect for me. Everything I ever wanted in a person,” Athena said. “I don’t know anyone who ever disliked him.”

She said her husband wanted to make the military a career because he felt he would be doing something good with his life. He returned to Iraq this spring. But days into his second deployment, on April 16, he shot himself in the chest with his rifle in a base bathroom at Camp Ramadi, according to a Marine Corps investigation. He was 20.

The investigation uncovered no obvious reason for his suicide.

His commanders did not believe he had been in a firefight during his time in Iraq, nor was anyone he knew seriously injured.

He was involved in a minor infraction the day of his death: He left a vehicle he was ordered to watch. But his fellow Marines told investigators that Spencer never made big mistakes and was the “best M249 SAW gunner in the platoon.”

Ray Spencer was born in Hanford, Calif., and spent his childhood with his grandmother and aunt in the Los Angeles area. In 2002, he moved to Ridgecrest to live with his father.

“He was a great kid, my only son. I loved him very much,” his father said. “I never approved of him going in the military . . . I figured me doing 22 years was more than enough.”

The Department of Defense initially said that Spencer’s death was under investigation, describing it as the result of a “nonhostile incident.”

“It was just a very painful thing when I found out” that the gunshot wound was self-inflicted, Athena said in an e-mail. “My only worry was that people would think less of him because of it. He was a very kind and wonderful person and [I] just hope people can understand.”

Copyright © Los Angeles Times 2009

USMC: Kern Marine’s death in Iraq was suicide


Friends and colleagues said Lance Corporal Ray A. Spencer II was a funny, competent Marine, always able to cheer his comrades when they were feeling down.

At the time of his death, the military would say only the 20-year-old Ridgecrest native was shot to death April 16 on his Central Iraq base, in the line of duty, in a non-combat act.

Now, in reports released to 17News, the Marine Corps says Spencer committed suicide in a scene reminiscent of the movie, “Full Metal Jacket.”

The reports say Spencer cut his wrists inside a stall in a base latrine and wrote, ”I hate my life” in blood on a wall. He then shot himself with his duty weapon. In a personal journal, Spencer wrote what naval investigators characterized as a suicide note, according to reports.

Channel 17 received the reports through the Freedom of Information Act.

Spencer, a Burroughs High School graduate who friends said wanted to be a Marine all his life, was buried with full military honors. He was married and was based in Hawaii before he was deployed to Iraq, He was in his second tour, and based in Ramadi, about 68 miles west of Baghdad.

The Marines said Spencer had never been in a firefight. He had never been injured or witnessed any of his fellow Marines be wounded. He had attended all required USMC courses in personal health, including three seminars in suicide prevention, the reports say. He had undergone the routine Marine Corps mental health screening.

The investigation’s conclusion that Spencer made a ”rash and irrevocable decision to take his own life” was supported by the statements of nearly a dozen fellow Marines who were in the barracks with him that night.

Those same witnesses said the act was unlike the young man they had come to know.

His squad mates liked and respected him, and considered him the best squad automatic weapon (SAW) gunner in his rifle company.

”He had a good sense of humor and was usually the one lifting up others when they were feeling down,” fellow Marines later told investigators.

On April 16, Spencer was on the Marine base in Ramadi and ordered to guard a vehicle. He said he thought his assignment had concluded and left the area, but the corporal in charge reprimanded him and ordered punishment: Six hours of fire watch, taking out barracks trash and sweeping a walkway.

That night, as other Marines watched a movie in the barracks, Spencer took his SAW into the latrine and sat on the toilet.

He sat there more than an hour. He cut his wrists and wrote — in blood — on the stall wall, ”I hate my life.”

At about 11 p.m. that night, other Marines in the squad bay heard a shot.

An NCIS report says investigators found Spencer’s personal journal which included what they characterized as a suicide note. It said, ”if you are reading this, then I’m sorry to say I won’t be coming back home.” It said Spencer felt he couldn’t seem to do anything right.

Fellow Marines said Spencer had money problems, and had quarreled with his wife that morning about finances.

Copyright © KGET 2009



KGET News Report with Command Investigation

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