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Billy Spears joined Marines at age 17
Veteran Billy Spears.jpg
Mark Seymour, left, delights veteran and WillowBranch resident Billy Spears with a T-shirt, tote, and hat honoring veterans for their service. The gifts were provided by the Home of the Brave campaign which began in 2012 as a corporate social responsibility activity. - photo by Sheila Fann

Service in the U.S. Marines began at age 17 for Billy Spears. Living in Nashville, during the mid-’60s, a parents’ signature was required in order to join a branch of the military under age 18.

His parents signed and Spears was off to see a world inconceivable to most 17-year-olds. During his four years of service, he served on the lands of Europe, France, Germany, Italy, Greece and Spain.

During the height of the Vietnam War, Spears served his last tour of duty in Guam. He spent the last 18 months of his service on the 225-square-mile island which served as a site of major logistical support to U.S. forces. A large majority of the U.S. B-52 aircraft used in Southeast Asia was based there as well as key intelligence centers, surveillance and protections for Guam itself. It was there Spears provided guard duty for the telecommunications center spending 12 hours on and 12 hours off.

“When I first got to Guam, I was kind of scared,” said Spears. “It was a rough place. After I was there, I was like this OK. There was nothing on that island. There was nothing to do, not a damn thing. They did have grasshoppers that were at least 7-8 inches long. They were huge. When we were on guard duty, sometimes we would get pellet guns have target practice with them. We did have a good restaurant or two. Occasionally, we could rent a car for $5 and drive around for a day. I got paid $95 a month, they fed us and gave us laundry service. I’m really proud of being a Marine veteran. I’m going to tell you that you have to have endurance, no questions asked, never cut back or look back. It was straight ahead.”