Joseph “Mac” MacKay Spears was raised in a proud military family. This sparked in him an early interest in wanting to join the military and jump out of airplanes. In 1956, he graduated from VMI (Virginia Military Institute). Shortly thereafter, Mac joined the Army and was initially assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, serving a total of 25 years.
One of Mac’s favorite highlights of his time in the service, was being able to travel all over the world, especially Europe. Stationed in Germany for 4 years, he joined the 505th Parachute Infantry. Working roughly 70% of his time in the field, Mac fondly remembers his experience there: “It was tough on the ladies, and it was tough on the families, but they all got together and it was a great outfit. I wouldn’t trade that 505th parachute infantry for anything.”
Over the course of his military career, Mac served as a platoon leader, company commander, a battalion executive officer, and eventually retired as a Lt. Col. He volunteered twice to go to Vietnam, the first time as an advisor to the 6th Parachute Battalion in the Vietnamese Airborne Brigade from 1963-64. He also served in the 1st Cavalry Division Air Mobile from 1966-67. Mac speaks very highly of his former commanders, and attributes his military experience to helping shape how he approaches life.
After serving 25 years, Mac retired from the military and went to work in the insurance/mutual fund industry. He eventually retired from a medical company in 2005. Mac continued jumping out of airplanes after his military retirement, and went on several jumping expeditions with the United States Parachute Association around the world, only retiring at the age of 70 because of a knee replacement.
Mac has 6 wonderful children with his first wife, Janie, whom he lost to cancer after 43 years of marriage. Joseph M. III (Naval Aviator), John E. (Marine Anglico), Elizabeth, David V.D. (Navy SEAL), Donald (Air Force Pararescue), and Jennifer round out the Spears clan. He has been married to his second wife, Carol for 4 years, and she is the chief nurse at the Pentagon civilian health clinic. He speaks with a profound sense of pride for all of his children, including his 2 grandchildren, Donald and Lane.
In his spare time, Mac is a docent at the National Cathedral and volunteers at his church. He loves being part of a community. Having had a recent injury, his church group came to his rescue. Incredibly grateful, he says, “try to get close to the folks who can really help you out when you need it.” Touching on that, Mac recommends using organizations such as MVETS and American Legion to service members who are nearing retirement. His sense of patriotism and familial pride is ever-present: “I appreciate being born in the United States, especially having seen some of the things I’ve seen. I’ve had a very good life. Believe me, I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”