Marine Joe Spoores of Vevay: home for holidays a special time

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When Joe Spoores decided to join the Marine Corps in April of 2008, he did so knowing that there was a heritage of service by his family to his country. His grandfather, Larry Spoores, was a Marine who served in Vietnam, and it was that legacy that led Joe to enlist.

The 2007 graduate of Switzerland County High School is currently stationed in Okinawa, Japan with the 3rd Marine Division with the CAB Assault Division; but has had the opportunity to be home on leave for the past few weeks – and will spend the Thanksgiving holiday with his family before heading back to Okinawa this Saturday, November 28th.

“I haven’t been home for an actual holiday in two years,” Joe Spoores said. “Last year I was home on leave, but I had to go back before Thanksgiving. I haven’t been home for Christmas or birthdays, so getting to be home for Thanksgiving is pretty special for me.”

Now a lance corporal serving as a combat engineer, Joe Spoores had really hoped to be home for another holiday – which he got to do.

“I really wanted to be home for Veterans Day to be with my grandpa,” Joe Spoores said. “I got to do that, and that was pretty special. He was one of the biggest reasons that I decided to go to the Marines, because he was a Marine, too.”

Currently stationed at Camp Schwab on the island of Okinawa, Joe Spoores also served a tour of duty in Iraq, being deployed in February and returning to Okinawa in September.

To be exact – he finished his tour on September 11th.

“That was kind of crazy,” Joe Spoores said. “The day everything started is the day we got out.”

In Iraq he served as a 240-gunner, moving from places like Ramadi to Al Asad to Baghdad.

“The first three months I was there we did route repair, fixing the holes that IEDs (Improvised Explosive Device) left,” Joe Spoores said. “Then the remainder of my time in country we got switched to route clearance.”

In route clearance, Joe Spoores and his fellow soldiers would go out onto a road first that would be traveled later by other soldiers moving from one area to another. It was the job of Joe Spoores and his crew to clear the route of any IEDs that may have been planted; and to handle any “hostiles” that may want to bring harm to the soldiers.

“We only got hit three times, and we found 12 or 13 IEDs, so we cleared the route,” Joe Spoores said.

Finishing up in Iraq, Joe Spoores headed back to Okinawa, where he does everything from demolition to breaching to construction work. Upon his return he will continue with his work on Okinawa, and before the end of the year he will be attached to a Marine Expedition Unit (MEU).

With the MEU, Joe Spoores will begin training for an upcoming deployment that is expected to begin in January. The group will be doing training during the first half of 2010 in the Philippines, Thailand, Korea, Hong Kong, and possibly Australia.

In Korea, he hopes to have the chance to meet up with fellow Switzerland Countian Jamin Moore, who he’s very close to.

“I’m really hoping that I get to see him while I’m in Korea,” Joe Spoores says. “It’s hard because when he’s in, I’m not, and when I’m here, he’s gone. That’s hard, because he’s like my big brother.”

Finishing that assignment in July, Joe Spoores said he will then return to Okinawa, but because his tour on the island will be up on November 1st, he says that he will remain at Camp Schwab until he is assigned to a base here in the states.

“Hopefully I will get stationed in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune,” Joe Spoores said. “That would mean that I’ll get to see family and friends more often than just on holidays.”

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So what does being home for the Thanksgiving holiday mean to Joe Spoores?

“It’s pretty big,” he says. “You don’t know what your family means to you until you’re away from them, especially during the holidays. I have a lot of appreciation for holidays because of getting to spend time with family and what it means to have family.”

For Joe Spoores, Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather together. To see who’s grown up and who’s matured. It’s a time to catch up and celebrate.

“It’s just a time for everyone to be together and be happy,” Joe Spoores says. “When you don’t get much time together, you figure out the important things.”

Coming home also means catching up on everything that goes on here in Switzerland County. Returning, Joe Spoores says, becomes a reality check of sorts.

“It’s been a year exactly since I was back in Vevay,” he says. “Since I was here my grandma retired and my dad is a principal and mom has another job. My baby sister is a senior in high school, which is kind of scary. People grow up too fast for me.”

Still, the Marine Joe Spoores knows that although he is sometimes away from his family here – there is still family on base that are important to him, also.

“It’s hard to be away during the holidays,” he says. “But even though my ‘family family’ is here, the people over there, the people who I serve with and go through everything with. They are my family away from home.”

Joe Spoores said that the holidays on Okinawa will involve local children coming to the base, with each soldier being assigned a couple of kids to show around the base; spend time with; and generally take care of for the day.

At Christmas the base will bring Santa in to visit the local children; and townspeople in need are helped and the children are given presents and other things.

“The kids go sledding down hills on cardboard boxes over there,” Joe Spoores smiles. “They don’t have snow over there, so they try and imagine what it would be like to sled on snow.”

As for Okinawa, Joe Spoores says that the weather is perfect year round, with people going to the beach everyday. He notes that the people of Okinawa take a lot of pride in their country, keeping it very clean and picking up all of the trash and debris.

“The language was a little hard to catch onto, but after you get the hang of it, it’s not really too bad,” he says.

So as he travels the world, Joe Spoores says that he loves his career path and his time in the Marines.

“I love the Marine Corps,” he says. “The only part of it that I don’t like is being away from my family and being stationed away from home. You’ve got to make sacrifices sometimes, and they’re worth it.”

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Joe is the son of Tony and Anna Spoores of Vevay; and the big brother of Kathe Spoores, who will be marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City tomorrow (Thursday).

– Pat Lanman