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ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL REPORT

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Monday, July 7

Marine whose unit helped rescue Lynch killed in crash

By Paul Alongi | The Greenville (S.C.) News

MARIETTA, S.C. - A Marine whose unit was involved in rescuing Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch died in a weekend car crash after returning home for the first time since fighting in Iraq, authorities said.

Josh Daniel Speer, 21, died instantly Sunday morning while en route to his fiancee's house, said Kent Dill, a Greenville County deputy coroner.

Speer was a member of a unit that helped rescue Lynch, who was captured near Nasiriyah, said Capt. Shawn Turner, a Corps spokesman. Details of the unit's role weren't available.

Speer arrived June 28 at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina after returning to the United States aboard the USS Kearsarge. The family said he was home in Marietta for the first time Thursday.

Holly Coupe, his fiancee, said Speer sent her a letter from Iraq that said, "The first thing I'll do when I get back is put a ring on your finger."

It didn't happen this weekend because they went to Frankie's Fun Park, but she expected him to give her the ring while hiking next Saturday, she said.

"I lost him, but it's the Lord's will," Coupe said, choking back tears. "It's hard to accept, but I have to. He has bigger plans for him."

Family and friends gathered at the home of Speer's parents in the woods of Marietta. They smiled while remembering his life and cried over losing him.

"He loved God, his family and his country," said his mother, Shirley Speer.

His father, John Speer, said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks played a pivotal role in his son's decision to join the Marines.

"I feel very proud," he said. "We trained our children to be patriotic and God-honoring people."

Dan Eshleman, pastor of Faith Independent Church, said Josh Speer visited him shortly after the attacks. He had a fearful look in his face and didn't answer when asked what was wrong.

Over the next few weeks, Eshleman said Speer would ask if he should enlist. Eshleman told him to do the will of God.

By November 2001, Speer had joined the Corps.

"This was his way of doing something to counteract what they had done," Eshleman said. "He gave it his all."

Speer, who was wearing his seat belt, ran off the right side of South Carolina 11 and overturned several times, said Lance Cpl. Dan Marsceau of the South Carolina Highway Patrol. He died at the scene.

The youngest of seven children, Speer was born in Toccoa, Ga., but lived nearly his entire life in Marietta. His family said he planned to make a career of the Marine Corps.

"Out of everybody you want your daughter to marry, he's the guy," said William Coupe, who would have been Speer's father-in-law. "I loved him like a son."