Joseph B. Spence (2005/01/26)

Iraq was not comfortable, was not safe, but it was where Joey Spence wanted to be.

Joseph B. Spence was born on June 18, 1980 in Santa Cruz, California to Jim and Becky Spence. Joey, as he was called in the family, had the companionship of his two brothers Tommy and Roger, as he grew up in the family home in the northern portion of the county. His high school years were spent at the Wes Beach High School, a small school located off the Old San Jose Road in Soquel. During his high school years, Spence could frequently be found playing guitar in a garage band and four-wheeling in the Santa Cruz Mountains. After graduating in 1998, he was employed by Central Home Supply Company in Santa Cruz and began setting up a landscaping and construction business. Spence also remained active in the Gateway Church of Scotts Valley.

In December 2001 Joseph Spence enlisted in the US Marine Corps and was sent to Camp Pendleton for his basic and school-of-infantry training. Following their completion, he was assigned to the Marine base in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. While home on leave at Thanksgiving, he proposed to Elisabeth Bertsch, whom he had dated since he was sixteen; the couple were married on December 28, 2002.

Spence and his marine unit were engaged against Islamic terrorists in both the Philippine Islands and Iraq. In 2003, while serving as a marine rifleman in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment of the 3rd Marine Division, he fought against the Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines. When the Iraq War began, his unit was deployed to the Middle East. In a San Jose Mercury News interview with his mother she noted that:
“He felt he had a mission to help the Iraqi people. When they were clearing out the houses in Al-Fallujah, his mother said, he said the Iraqi people were grateful for the Marines' presence and the Iraqi soldiers don't want them to leave. He said that America has no idea -- no idea -- what our military is doing over there and how grateful the people are…It's not comfortable. It's not safe. But it's where he wanted to be.”

On January 26, 2005 Lance Corporal Joseph B. Spence and his unit were given the mission of providing security for the first elections of the new Iraqi government. He and twenty-four other members of his company boarded a CH- 53 Super Stallion marine helicopter in Western Iraq. Soon after the aircraft had begun its flight, it encountered a sand-storm and while attempting to fly through it, went down killing the twenty-five marines, one sailor and five crew-members. His body was recovered and returned to Santa Cruz for a funeral and burial in Oakwood Memorial Park.

(Marine Chat.Com, "Scotts Valley Marine loved Corps- Copters," David L. Beck San Jose Mercury News,, [16 September 2008]; SCSn January 28, 2005 1:1, SCSn February 9, 2005)

Creator: Nelson, Robert L.
Source: Remembering our own: the Santa Cruz County military roll of honor 1861-2010. Santa Cruz, CA: The Museum of Art & History, c2010.
Date: Undated
Type: OBIT
Coverage: 2000s
Rights: Reproduced by permission of Robert L. Nelson and The Museum of Art & History.
Identifier: RO-SPENCE


Nelson, Robert L. “Joseph B. Spence (2005/01/26).” Remembering our own: the Santa Cruz County military roll of honor 1861-2010. Santa Cruz, CA: The Museum of Art & History, c2010. SCPL Local History. Accessed 23 July 2024.