Wounded veteran grand marshal of Norwood Park parade

May 27, 2013 5:58:55 PM PDT
A veteran with a long military history was the grand marshal of Norwood Park's Memorial Day parade.

The weather did not hold back the parade on Chicago's far Northwest Side.

In its 81st year, the parade has rich tradition. That word - tradition - is most meaningful to this year's parade grand marshal, Staff Sergeant Nick Spencer. Military service goes back generations in his family. It feels natural, but for a modest guy, a tad bashful, being the grand marshal?

"You just don't think you're deserving you know," said Spencer. "I'm a staff sergeant in the Air Force Raven Section -- that's it."

The job of the Raven Section is to protect aircraft and their crews at forward bases -- like Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2001. That's where Nick was when the Taliban began lobbing in mortar fire.

"A mortar round went off - not super close to me, but enough to contort the way I was going to dive into a ditch, and when I did I ended up looking at my heels and slamming into a rock, and that's when I screwed up my back," said Spencer.

Broken vertebrae, crushed discs; but he still peeled himself out of the ditch and managed to move the huge transport aircraft out of harm's way.

"He's a hard charger. He looks at a situation, any kind of problem you have, he'll already have a solution working in his head," said friend Joe Giambrone.

That may come naturally. But this grand marshal thing? Waving. People calling you a hero. Spencer says he doesn't view himself that way.

"I think I'm an American who did what he had to do. The heroes are the guys who didn't come home," says Spencer.

Still, Memorial Day brings great honor to a man whose actions, his son Liam confirmed, were enough to qualify him as 'awesome'.

"He was in the military. He's a policeman. He went to help what with 9-11. Broke his back, like, twice," said Liam Spencer.

As the boys follow in a cool convertible, the mom and the dad walk and get hugs and thanks, and along the way, practice the 'celebrity wave.' Not a bad day for a modest guy - a tad bashful - the grand marshal.


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