Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Corps Veteran Wade Spann, who served four years and multiple tours supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Wade Spann grew up in Northern Virginia and while still a junior in high school, he made the decision to join the Marine Corps. Spann officially enlisted in the Marines in August 2001. After graduating school, he went to Parris Island, South Carolina, to complete basic training. Spann was in the middle of basic training when the attacks on 9/11 occurred. In an interview with the American Veterans Center, he reflected on his reaction to the attacks, saying, “I was ready for war.”
Spann served with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment as infantryman at Camp Pendleton, San Diego, in 2002. After a year in San Diego, his unit deployed to Baghdad, Iraq. Spann’s first duty in Iraq was to pick up supplies and begin setting up a base for his unit. Upon his unit’s first casualty in Baghdad, Spann noted that “the reality of war quickly struck home.” His platoon remained in Iraq until June 2003 before returning to San Diego. Spann’s unit was stateside for a short period of time before redeploying to Fallujah, Iraq.
During his second tour in Iraq, his unit faced an IED attack by enemy forces. The attack wounded Spann and four others in the unit. Spann was struck in the back of his head by shrapnel, which caused him to lose consciousness. He quickly recuperated and remained in Iraq. Spann’s unit left Iraq in the summer of 2004 but deployed again in March 2005.
His deployment to Al-Ramadi, Iraq, would be his last. In August 2005, Spann declined to extend his service time and made the decision to leave the Marine Corps.
Weeks after his time in the service came to an end, he began taking classes at Northern Virginia Community College. The transition from active military service to an educational environment was a major adjustment for Spann. He overcame his struggles, graduated and decided to apply to George Washington University. While there, Spann and two other Veterans started a group on campus for Veterans. They created an organization for Veterans and helped improve the services student Veterans received on campus.
When Spann graduated from George Washington University in 2009, he started working abroad in international security, however, he was greatly impacted by the suicides of members in his former unit, saying, “The stigma associated was alive and present.” He changed careers, and after some time, he traveled the country and spoke to other Veterans about their experiences both in and after service. Spann, reflecting on this experience, said, “It was its own therapy in itself.”
Spann was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which caused him to reevaluate his coping mechanisms. He continues to work on recovering from his service while also reaching out to other Veterans to stay connected and help them live fruitful lives.
Thank you for your service!
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Writer: Amanda Baker
Editor: Katherine Berman, Brooke Wolfenbarger
Fact checker: Ileana Rodrigues
Graphic artist: Courtney Carr