Spencer Roach has been a resident, property-owner, tax-payer and voter in Cape Coral for almost 20 years, but his career with the Coast Guard kept him out of the area for most of the last decade. While in the military, federal law allows you to maintain your state of residency even though you may live somewhere else. Spencer elected to maintain his Cape Coral (and thus Florida) residency throughout his Coast Guard career – because he knew from the moment he moved here that he loved this place and would eventually move back to live out the rest of his days!
Spencer served in the United States Coast Guard for 20 years (and sixteen days.) As the smallest branch of the Armed Services (currently 40,000 active-duty members,) most people are surprised to learn that the Coast Guard is a military branch. Congress (through Title 14 of the U.S. Code) has made it clear that the Coast Guard “shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times.”
The Coast Guard is unique among all other branches in that it is the only branch of the military that has both a domestic law enforcement mission and also serves as a federal regulatory agency, in addition to traditional roles associated with the military services, such as national defense. Although the Coast Guard’s core mission is maritime search and rescue, the Coast Guard has been involved in every U.S. war from 1790 to the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan.
Spencer enlisted in 1996 and proudly served for 10 years as an enlisted member, earning the grade of E-6. He attended OCS in 2006 and received an officer’s commission. After his first assignment as a junior officer, he was selected for the prestigious Judge Advocate General (JAG) Program. The Coast Guard paid for his legal education and he served for the remainder of his career as a Judge Advocate, which is essentially a military attorney. He attended law school at the University of Miami and is licensed to practice law in both Florida and Texas. He retired on July 15, 2016.
He served in Alaska policing the roughest waters in the world in the Bearing Sea (think- World’s Deadliest Catch), two tours in Florida (Station Ft Myers Beach and in Miami for law school), in New Orleans picking up the pieces post-Katrina, Houston, Washington DC at Coast Guard Headquarters, with prolonged assignments in both Virginia and Connecticut for training. He also volunteered for a six-month combat deployment to the Middle East in 1999. His was the first Coast Guard ship in history to deploy with a U.S. Naval Battle Group. That was a long, arduous assignment, but they made some incredible port calls: Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Penang, Thailand, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, just to name a few.
When he retired last year, his intent was to take a year off (maybe two) and travel the world. But Spencer got drafted back into federal service by Francis Rooney, whom he met last year at the Red, White & Boom 4th of July celebration, and he is now working for Congressman Rooney as his District Director. (He did spend 4 months in Central America before going back to work.)
Spencer’s individual military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Coast Guard Commendation Medal (2), Coast Guard Achievement Medal (2), and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, all with the Operational Distinguishing Device. In 2004, and again in 2016, LT Roach was issued a legislative tribute by the Florida House of Representatives in recognition of his Coast Guard and community.
Spencer is extremely close with his family. When he first moved to Cape Coral, his parents were still living in Louisiana. The first year he lived in Florida, they came to visit twice and stayed for about 3 days . . . every year thereafter, they would visit more frequently and stay longer. He finally (and gently) asked them if they would consider getting their own place, and to his surprise they did – they bought a home about a mile down the road from Spencer!
They moved to the Cape in 2004, and in a twist of irony, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 and Spencer was transferred back to Louisiana (New Orleans) to assist with the rescue and recovery efforts. So, for the next 11 years the roles reversed once again: he was visiting them (in Cape Coral) every chance he got.
His brother and sister also followed him to Cape Coral. Spencer’s brother served in the Coast Guard for 8 years and then lateralled over to Customs & Border Protection. He currently serves as a counter-narcotics agent in Puerto Rico, but hopes to receive a transfer to the Ft Myers office in two-years. His sister lives in Cape Coral and is a dog-trainer.
Spencer has done a variety of volunteer work, from teaching ESL and GED, hosting financial literacy workshops for kids aging out of foster care, and two years with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of SW Florida. Currently he serves as a Guardian ad Litem to represent abused or neglected children going through the Dependency Court system. When Judge Branning swore Spencer in, he described it as “the worst job you will ever love.” It is very rewarding, but can break your heart to see what these kids have been through.
According to Spencer, the best part of living in Cape Coral are the people. “ I am constantly meeting new people, and I’m always impressed by the earnestness, hospitality, and authenticity of the people that make up our community. Despite its growth, Cape Coral still has a neighborhood feel, and I hope we never lose that.”
As a kid, Spencer always aspired to be a novelist . . . he even wrote a short story in the 6th grade that won a contest and got published. Sometimes he still thinks about sitting down to write the great American novel. Who knows?
Spencer is not married and does not have any children, although he is looking for “Mrs. Right.” He has a 13-year-old nephew on whom he dotes. So, if you are in the market for your own Hometown Hero, keep your eyes out around Cape Coral for Spencer.
Thank you, Spencer, for your military service and the service that you continue to do today. You are a true Hometown Hero!
By: Susan McNamara
August 8, 2017
Original Article in Cape Style Magazine