HARTLAND, Maine — Tyler Springmann’s time in central Maine before joining the Army was short, but he touched the lives of hundreds of people.
Springmann, 19, was killed Sunday in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, by a roadside bomb. Though his legacy will be marked by the ultimate sacrifice he made on the battlefield, many also will remember him as a smart and quick-witted young man who was not afraid of challenges.
Nokomis Principal Mary Nadeau said Springmann attended area schools as a child before moving away for several years. He returned to the area before his senior year.
“He was just a great kid,” said Nadeau. “There was always a smile on his face.”
Nadeau said Springmann attended high schools in Texas and Connecticut before coming to Nokomis. Moving around left Springmann with a hefty course load in his senior year, but Nadeau said the young man approached and overcame the challenge with grace and optimism. Springmann graduated on schedule in 2010.
“He was very focused on earning his high school diploma,” said Nadeau. “We only had him for one year, but he had a good assortment of friends and we all thought he was a very nice young man.”
Among Springmann’s interests was carpentry. He was enrolled in John Guay’s building trades course at Tri-County Technical Center in Dexter. Guay said Springmann was “quick-witted” and liked by the other students. On many days, Springmann would teach the class words in sign language, in which Guay said he was fluent. The lessons ranged from words such as “love,” “hello” and “goodbye” to construction terms such as “stud,” “header” and “footer.”
“He was really interested in language,” said Guay. “He thought his sign language skills would help him in the military.”
In addition to sign language, Springmann also was interested in etymology, which is the study of word origins. Guay said he always was researching where words came from and sharing the information with whoever would listen.
Springmann was quick with a joke, even under adverse circumstances, said Guay. During a carpentry competition in Augusta, Springmann was driving screws into sheetrock when something happened that would make most people scream.
“He held up his hand and it had a screw sticking out of both sides of his finger.” said Guay. “All he said was, ‘It could have been worse. I could have hit the bone.’ He was just as calm as could be.”
Springmann was determined to join the military right out of high school, said Guay, who has family members who have served and been injured in combat zones in the past.
“I told him that in this area of Maine there’s not a lot of options for young people,” said Guay. “When he told me he had committed [to the Army], I said, ‘I’ll support you but I’m not excited about it and I can’t encourage you to do it.’ He told me he respected what I said but that this was what he really wanted to do. He was very level-headed about wanting to serve his country.”
Springmann, a private first class, was a member of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska. The improvised explosive device that killed him also claimed an Army sergeant from Pennsylvania and wounded several others.
A Facebook page titled “rip Tyler Springman” asked viewers to keep their porch lights on until midnight Thursday in Springmann’s honor. During the day Tuesday, the page went from having a couple of dozen people vowing to keep their lights on to hundreds.
Springmann was the son of Tina Webber of Hartland and Robert Springmann of Texas, according to a congressional source who asked not to be identified. Springmann was married to Brittney Springmann of Palmyra and had two siblings. Members of the family declined interview requests on Tuesday.
Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, who is a member of the Maine National Guard, referred to Springmann in a press release in heroic terms.
“Tyler [Springmann] decided early in his life to give back to his country and his community,” Fredette said in the release. “The Nokomis High School community is deeply saddened today, but we are proud of his service. We extend our prayers and thoughts to his family during this sorrowful time.”
U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, also expressed her condolences in a press release.
“We all owe Tyler and his family our immeasurable gratitude for the courageous dedication he displayed with incredible valor time and again,” said Snowe. “My thoughts and prayers are with Tyler’s family and loved ones during this difficult time.”
Democratic 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud also released a statement.
“He made the ultimate sacrifice for his country and we will never forget his honorable service,” said Michaud. “Words cannot do justice to the pain his family and friends are feeling right now, but Maine communities have a history of coming together to support their own.”
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, extended her “deepest sympathies” to Springmann’s family.
“This is an extremely difficult time for them,” said Collins in a press release. “Our nation will be forever grateful for his selfless sacrifice and brave service, and he will not be forgotten.”
Gov. Paul LePage also offered his condolences.
“[Springmann’s] sacrifice was made in the defense of our country and the values of liberty and freedom that we cherish as Americans,” said LePage in a statement. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family and with all soldiers who continue to fight on behalf of our country.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an error in the spelling of Tyler Springmann's name. According to the Associated Press, the military listed his name as Springman, and it appeared that way on his uniform. His mother, Tina Stratton of Hartland, told the Morning Sentinel that she intended to set the record straight with military authorities.