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DOWNEY – Calvin Spencer knew he wanted to join the military since his freshman year of high school. Specifically, he wanted to join the Marines and be in combat.
He didn’t waste any time following his dream.
Two weeks after graduating from Warren High School in 2005, Spencer was in boot camp. He was sent to Iraq in November 2006, where he would remain until April 2007. He officially left the service in 2010.
While overseas, Spencer says he missed his hometown.
“I missed the smell of the city,” he says.
After returning home, he started bartending, which led him to pursing a career in culinary arts. He graduated from Cordon Blu Culinary School in Pasadena.
From there he landed an internship with the Embassy Suites in Downey. He also helped open a kitchen called Roxanne’s in Long Beach.
Two years later, he was approached by Nick Velez, a fellow veteran, about opening their own restaurant. They opened Bastards in Downtown Downey in 2012.
“Sixty percent of the people that come in are veterans,” Spencer says. Many come for the camaraderie.
Today, Spencer lives in his childhood home in Downey. His family includes a mother, a brother and a sister; his father died when Spencer was young.
After reflecting on his experiences in the military, would he reenlist?
“Yes, I would do the same experience again,” he says. “Same infantry, same branch, same job.”
“Coming Home: A Veteran’s Story” is a project between the Living Tree Foundation and the Downey Patriot, with the goal of telling the stories of Downey’s veterans, good and bad, old and young. If you are interested in telling your story, contact Julie Garcia at (562) 884-8683 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Eric Pierce at email@example.com or (562) 904-3668.
Published: July 31, 2014 – Volume 13 – Issue 16