Kingsport Times News Thursday, October 23, 2014

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Friends, family celebrate late soldier's legacy

April 10th, 2014 9:50 am by Marci Gore

Friends, family celebrate late soldier's legacy

Mary Fields' son, Aaron Magnuson, was in the same unit as Sgt. Michael Speer when their unit was attacked, just six weeks after they arrived for their second tour of duty in Iraq.

Sgt. Speer, with Fox Company 2nd Battalion 2nd Marine Regiment, lost his life fighting outside of Fallujah on April 9, 2004, exactly 10 years ago yesterday.

Fields says it is because of her son's friendship with Speer that she now lives in the Tri-Cities.

"I came here for Mike's funeral and saw how beautiful the area was. I moved here from Las Vegas. I started house shopping while I was here for the funeral. It was Mike who brought us here," Fields said.

Magnuson, Speer and another Marine named John Conkin were all roommates. Conkin was from Kingsport and he used to take the other two back to his hometown. It was in Kingsport that Speer would meet his wife and marry her in August 2003.

Less than a year later, Speer was killed.

Speer was originally from Kansas, but his wife had him buried at Mountain Home in Johnson City. Every year, a few Marines get together and go to Speer's grave, and because 2014 is the 10-year anniversary of Speer's death, they wanted to do something special.

A group of Speer's fellow Marines is flying his family from Kansas to Kingsport. A total of 75 Marines from across the country will be in town for a memorial service on Saturday.

In addition to the memorial service, a special event is planned for later in the day at Conley's Overlook, located at 130 VFW Road in Colonial Heights.

Fields' husband, Jimmy Fields, is a long-time Elvis tribute artist who has spent many years performing across the United States and will be on hand to provide entertainment for a benefit dinner for the Speer family.

The event kicks off at 5 p.m., Saturday, with dinner being served at 6 p.m. "Elvis" will take the stage at 6:30 p.m. and perform for approximately two hours.

Admission is a $10 donation.

Fields says it is very fitting that her husband of three years is the one performing at this benefit since Speer is the reason she lives in this area today.

"This Saturday is all about Mike. It really touches all of our hearts to be a part of this," she said.

Organizers are also trying to raise money to pay for the Speer family's flight. They are selling T-shirts for $25 to try and raise the money. If they get enough, they would also like to purchase an engraved memorial brick at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, which will cost $300.

The Marines involved are working closely with the East Tennessee Veteran's Association out of Kingsport.

If you would like to make a donation, you may email Magnuson at aaronmagnuson1@gmail.com.

A special account has also been set up at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3345 to accommodate all donations made for this event.

All donations made to the VFW are tax deductible. Donations can be made payable to VFW Post 3345 in the name of Sgt. Michael R. Speer Memorial Fund.

For more information about Saturday's Elvis Tribute Show and Dinner, call Fields at (423) 863-6843.

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