Iraq war veteran killed in Highway 11 wreck

The Greenville News | July 7, 2003
By Paul Alongi

A Marine who was home for the first time since fighting in Iraq died Sunday morning when the vehicle he was driving veered off State 11 and crashed into some trees, authorities said. 
Josh Daniel Speer, 21, died instantly about 8 a.m. 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 Jessica Lynch, the Army private captured by Iraqis near Nasiriyah, said Capt. Shawn Turner, a corps spokesman. Details of the unit's role weren't available, he said.

Speer arrived at Camp Lejeune last Saturday after steaming back to the United States aboard the USS Kearsarge. The family said he was back home in Marietta for the first time Thursday and spent the weekend enjoying time with them.

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 while 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 at the thought of losing him.

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

His father, John Speer, said the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks played a pivotal role in his son's decision to join the Marines.

"I feel very proud," John Speer 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, Eshleman said.

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

By November 2001, Josh 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."

Josh Speer, who was wearing his seat belt, ran off the right side of State 11 near Dill Road and overturned several times, said Lance Cpl. Dan Marsceau of the state Highway Patrol. He died on the scene, Dill said.

Josh Speer, the youngest of seven children, graduated from Pleasantview Christian Academy in 2000, family said. He was born in Toccoa, Ga., but lived nearly his entire life in Marietta.

His plan was to make a career out of the Marine Corps, family said.

William Coupe, who would have been his father-in-law, said he was proud of Josh Speer.

"Out of everybody you want your daughter to marry, he's the guy," he said. "I loved him like a son."