RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina National Guard soldier received a welcome-home celebration Tuesday while on a short leave from Iraq.
Jason Spencer started teaching at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School in 2002 and was called to duty in fall 2003, so he was only there a little more than a year before saying goodbye to his students.
For the last six months, the earth science teacher has served his country. During that time, his students were as much in his thoughts, and in his heart as he was in theirs.
"I miss Mr. Spencer, and you never think they're going to come back and they actually do," student Angelica Jones said. "I didn't think I was going to cry because I'm not an emotional person, but when I saw him, I was just like, 'He's back and he was safe and God was protecting him.'"
"I had to fight back the tears a couple of times. I didn't realize how much I really missed it until I left," Spencer said. "These students are my heart, my life. When I'm here, they know that's what I care for."
Spencer is only home for two weeks before he has to go back, but he said this was one stop he had to make.
"It was really great to see him today to come home, and he's one of our family members, and we appreciate everything he does to protect us, to protect our country. He's a great role model," Principal John Modest said.
Spencer said he is raising the bar for his students, even during his down time with the 30th Heavy Separate Brigade.
"I'm doing lesson plans, planning the calendar out and doing different things and different strategies," he said. "My wife has sent me two earth science books and I've gotten a couple sent to me to plan stuff, so when I get back, I'm ready to get back in the classroom."
Spencer got married just seven days after being called up for duty. He and his wife, Jennifer, are using their short time together to celebrate their anniversary and settle on a house. He expects to be home next spring.