Specking Continues to Overcome Obstacles

Thursday, June 16, 2016
David Specking at Marmaduke Elementary School.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

Life can be full of ups and downs, but how the downs are handled is often what sets people apart.

David Specking served his country to the fullest extent of his capabilities and, after overcoming many obstacles and pain, he has come out on the brighter side of life.

Specking was born to Bernard and Wanda Specking in 1961 in Paragould. He attended Greene County Tech, where he competed in football, baseball and track. The family moved to the country outside Lafe in 1976, but Specking continued to attend GCT until he graduated in 1981.

Right out of high school he joined the work force at LA Darling Company's location in Paragould. Two months later he enlisted in the United States Army. He was based at Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla., where he attended college, earning a two-year degree in paramedics and training as a combat medic.

He then returned to Paragould and went back to work at LA Darling as a supervisor. "In those days paramedics didn't exist here -- the hospitals used EMTs," Specking said.

After 12 years as a civilian, he decided to join the Arkansas National Guard. "I started out in the engineering battalion, moved to the infantry division and then trained to be a cook," Specking said. He added that training gave him a wide array of knowledge in different areas and being a part of the military provided educational opportunities and self-improvement.

Then the Iraqi War began. For six months Specking was part of Multi-national Force and Observers (MFO), an international peacekeeping group overseeing the terms of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. "Our job was to observe and report," Specking said.

He was stationed in Egypt and Israel. "At the time there were bombers from Egypt inside Israel," he said. Egypt was like vacation compared to the months to come, he said. When off duty he spent time sight-seeing and visited some of the most spectacular locations in the world, including the Great Pyramids of Giza and museums filled with artifacts.

After serving as an MFO, he was moved to the Second Battalion, First Cavalry, also known as General Custer's Division.

He spent a short time in Kuwait before moving into Iraq on the front lines of the war, where his company was welcomed by an IED hanging from a bridge. "We stopped to remove the IED and that's when we took on fire, but no one got hurt severely in that attack,' Specking said. The cavalry then made it to their destination, Camp Taji, a joint operations base in Taji, Iraq. "We were training Iraqi soldiers to take care of their own battles all the way through," he said.

From there, two sectors of Army soldiers and two sectors of U.S. Marines encircled Fallujah. For 21 days U.S. military and Iraqi militia exchanged fire as the U.S. military lived on the streets of Fallujah unsure who could be trusted. "Women and children weren't to be counted out and often the people we were giving food in the day were shooting at us at night," Specking said.

Sixteen days into the battle of Fallujah a cease fire was called so the United Nations could conduct peace talks. However, it did not stop Iraqi militia. Weapons were a concern. "In Iraq each household was allowed an automatic weapon, but there may be five families living in one house, so you never really knew how many guns there were," he said.

On March 15, 2004, while traveling in a convoy, an IED exploded on the first Hummer in the crew. Specking and a medic were sitting in the back of a two-seater truck bed three vehicles back from the Hummer. The percussion from the blast blew both men out of the truck. The medic incurred neck pain while Specking suffered a back injury.

On Aug. 5, 2004, the cavalry was securing a school, "which looks like what we think of as a college with a large brick wall surrounding it," when a mortar hit one of the walls, knocking it down on top of Specking and two others in his division. "This is when my arm was smashed and my ulnar nerve was messed up," he said. The ulnar is one of the three main nerves in the arm and runs from the neck down the arm. Pressure or damage to the nerve can cause numbness or pain.

On Aug. 15, 2004, Specking's final battle occurred as his division moved down a city street and began taking on fire. The division hunkered down against a nearby wall as they watched the enemy pop in and out between buildings taking shots at the battalion. This went on for about five minutes.

Specking was three feet from the wall when a man with a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) fired upon the group. The RPG hit the wall, severely injuring Specking and shrapnel tore the rear of the division's tank to pieces.

In other times when Specking had been injured he never lost consciousness. "Every other time I was not leaving my boys, many were much younger than I," he said. This time he didn't have a choice and he was sent to Germany for medical treatment. He later arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Hood in San Antonio, where his injuries were fully realized -- surgeries on his lower back, neck, knee, ulnar nerve and both hands were needed and he also suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

He was allowed to return home, but he traveled back and forth to Little Rock and Jonesboro, undergoing various surgeries. His hands were repaired well, he said. Titanium plates were placed in his neck and back and back surgery left him without feeling in his legs.

Specking left the Army as Sergeant First Class E7 and was highly decorated, but the two honors he holds closest to his heart are his Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Along with physical therapy to recover from surgery, Specking began to see problems due to the TBI. "I would forget where I was going or what I was doing," he said, so his sister Judy Brasher left her career and took on the fulltime position of helping her brother. She ensures he makes his appointments and helps him keep calm in distressing situations, which are common with TBI's. Specking said TBI's are one of the most overlooked if not misunderstood injuries. He said it is life-changing.

It has been a long hard road to recovery, but during the most difficult part of his life Specking found one of his greatest blessings, his wife Ginger. They first met when Ginger was serving as a physical therapist during his sessions.

One day Specking invited Ginger to go to lunch with him and their lunch times evolved into dates, which turned into love. The couple dated a year before marrying in 2006. The couple has four children between them -- Crystal, Christopher, Carissa and Andrea. They also enjoy one granddaughter and four grandsons.

The couple lives in Lafe on the home place first purchased by Specking's parents, who live nearby. Carissa still lives at home and is in the 11th grade at Marmaduke High School.

Specking is active in the Marmaduke School District, volunteering with Watchdogs (dads of great students), reading to students during Dr. Seuss Day and helping out wherever he can.

Most recently, he and his sister have become involved in the Special Olympics and attended his first state event recently. "It's one of the greatest things to see these kids so happy," he said. "They really give their all and take everything to heart."

When he's not volunteering, Specking enjoys fly fishing, "usually at Cotter," making his own flies and rods, painting and watching Carissa compete in archery and sing in the choir.

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