Staff Sgt. Mark A. Spence, 24, was an avionics sensors team leader. He was killed in a helicopter crash near Treviso, Italy, from injuries received as the result of the accident.
He was born in Buffalo, New York.
He went from being the fastest runner in an elementary school track meet to competition with the cross country and football teams at Clarence High School.
He graduated from Clarence High School in 2001, completed a year's study at the University at Buffalo, and then joined the Air Force in 2003, arriving at Aviano AB, Italy in January 2004 as a member of the 31st Fighter Wing. His maternal grandfather, Donald Rhoads, who died in January, helped design airplanes and led to SSgt Spence's enlistment.
Mark also enjoyed photography and travel.
He continued his college studies while in the service, compiling a perfect 4.0 grade point average and expected to graduate soon from Park University with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. He was going to come home in June to take the New York State trooper's exam. He wanted to become a detective in the State Police.
"I'm tremendously proud of my son and the job he was doing," his father, Mark T. Spence, said.
Mark is survived by his wife, Elana, his parents, Mark T. Spence and Kim Rhoads-Spence, two brothers, Robert and Michael, and his grandmothers, Evelyn Rhoads and Alice. He and Elana were expecting the couple's first child in May 2008.