Monday, July 02, 2007

Ray Spencer laid to rest

Pfc. Raymond Spencer, on leave from the war in Iraq, was supposed to arrive on Long Island Monday.

The soldier, 23, had requested the leave as of July 1 because, although he had grown up in California, he wanted to be "home" on Long Island for his sister Victoria's birthday on July 3.

"He was going to come home to visit," said his mother, Laura Spencer, whose own mother and three siblings are from Levittown. The visit was to be a taste of the familial togetherness expected in the future, the mother said, because she, her soldier son and her daughter were planning to move to Long Island in the coming months to be closer to family.

Instead, Raymond Spencer was buried in Long Island National Cemetery, a casualty of a June 21 roadside attack in Baghdad by insurgents with a makeshift bomb. He served in the 2nd Battalion's 12th Cavalry Regiment.

"Before he left, we had this discussion, and he said if anything happened to him, he wanted to be buried out here," his mother said in an interview after the funeral Mass at the Church of St. Bernard in Levittown and the burial. "He wanted people to visit him."

The broad smile and frank expression he wore in a military photo, placed near his coffin in the church, were perfectly in character, Laura Spencer said.

"He lived his life to the fullest, like every day was his last, and he always had a smile on his face, even in Iraq," she said. "Wherever he went, he made friends."

At the Mass, the Rev. Vincent J. Ritchie praised Raymond Spencer as an example of giving oneself for the benefit of others.

Before joining the military, Spencer was a volunteer firefighter in California, and he had coached hockey for 4- and 5-year-olds and volunteered in other ways, his mother said.

He wanted to become a New York City firefighter and had toured Manhattan's elite Rescue 1 at Christmastime, she said.

Laura Spencer said she sent out information requests to her son's unit and received e-mails saying "really nice things about him."

From Newsday

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Raymond N. Spencer Jr. dies 'of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by insurgents using an IED and small arms fire'