News: Big Red One Soldier dedicates career to bettering the community
Story by Sgt. Thomas Duval
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The projector was streaming. The slides were ready. The ranks before Sgt. 1st Class Russell Spencer were buzzing with excitement.
The 20-year veteran of two wars carefully surveyed the crowd before him. He sized them up, stepped to the podium and took a deep breath. The crowd became silent and he began to read: “the night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind… and another… his mother called him wild thing!”
In that moment it became apparent that this was not a typical brief.
Instead, sitting in front of the combat-trained Army leader was a group of individuals unlike any he lead before. The formation of more than 50 children, dressed in brightly colored pajamas and animated slips, sat alongside their parents inside the Middletown Elementary auditorium, hanging on Spencer’s every word.
The students gathered at Middletown Elementary Sept. 19, to hear Spencer, the acting 1st Sgt. for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, rear operations, read “Where the Wild Things Are”, for the school’s annual Read-A-Thon.
The event encourages students to set reading goals and then challenges them to meet those goals with the help of their parents and has raised over $12,000 annually for educational programs, Lisa Lee, co-chair for the read-a-thon said.
Spencer has selflessly volunteered his time to help the school reach its goals for the past three years.
“Having Sergeant First Class Spencer be a part of our program has been a true blessing,” Lee said. “We can tell our children about the Army and the men and women that serve but for them to get to meet and see someone who is actually on active duty helps them to put a face on it. I think it brings the sacrifice closer to home when you know someone who is fighting for your freedom.”
After six deployments, Spencer understands firsthand how important the relationship between a Soldier and the community can be and has dedicated much of his career to helping strengthen that bond.
Throughout his 20-year career, Spencer has helped read to children, aid flood victims and repair orphanages in Honduras.
“I have made it my duty to volunteer my time to show the community that we [soldiers] are more than what is portrayed in the movies,” Spencer said. “Events like these help to unify the Army with the community to let them know that we are here to help serve them in more than just war.”
With Spencer preparing to retire next year his service as a Soldier on the frontlines of war are behind him however, he won’t sail off through night and day in a private boat like Max does in the book.
Instead, later this year Spencer is scheduled to return to Middletown Elementary for a Veterans Day presentation and one final farewell before putting away his uniform. With his son, Ethan, still in school Spencer, plans to spend his time out of the uniform building on the partnerships forged throughout his career and spending time with his family and community.
(Amanda Kim Stairrett of 1st Infantry Division public affairs contributed to this story)