Lost at Sea: Community honors fallen Ozarks soldier

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. A special tribute to a local soldier who died during World War Two was held Sunday.

John Glen Spencer was just 20 years-old when he, along with 56 others, were killed in the South Pacific by Japanese forces.

Reverend Don Anderson, a Vietnam Veteran, celebrated Spencer's life during his morning service at Republic Free Will Baptist Church.

It was a moment he was proud to share with his congregation.

Reverend Anderson knew he stumbled upon something special at a yard sale.

"Inside the cap was a name, J. G. Spencer," he said.

He and a friend did a bit of research and found that J.G. Spencer was John Glen Spencer of Springfield. Spencer served with the Navy aboard USS Smith during World War II.

"Smith went to the South Pacific in October 1942 to join in the fight to hold Guadalcanal. During the battle of the Santa Cruz Islands she was hit by a Japanese torpedo bomber that deliberately crashed into her forward super structure," explained Anderson.

He invited one of Spencer's only living relatives to the tribute.

"This is the first time, in all these years, that he has been honored," said Spencer's niece, Lenyce Rogers.

She was about three years old the last time she saw her uncle.

"I got to see him in the summer before he got killed in October," she said.

Rogers remembers how much he meant to their family.

"He sent letters wanting my mother to give me a hug, to give me a kiss because he loved his little niece," she said.

Rogers still has those letters.

"I wish that mother and my grandparents could hear because they would have been blown away with the acknowledgement. He was a special, very special man and he did give his life for our country. You don't expect to be acknowledged for things like this but yes, he would be very humble," she explained.

"He gave his life that we could have freedom as we have it today. Maybe just one man out of that 60 that we need to remember. February 7, 1922 to October 26, 1942. Lost at sea," said Anderson.

Anderson also found a canister at that sale containing other items that belonged to Spencer.

He plans to return that to his family