NEWPORT, Maine — There’s no question that Pfc. Tyler Springmann was a good soldier, a great son and a patriot. He was a terrible singer, though, according to his family members, but that didn’t stop him from belting out the tunes regardless of who was listening.
Lt. Col. Andrew Gibson of the Maine National Guard elicited some laughs Friday when he related that story at 19-year-old Springmann’s funeral, which otherwise was intensely somber. Considering the soldier’s love of music, it was fitting when Springmann’s grandmother Linda Snay performed one of his favorite songs, “Amazing Grace,” in his honor.
Without being prompted, the more than 200 people who turned out Friday at Nokomis Regional High School to mourn Springmann, who died while serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, rose to their feet to join the singing. A scene like that would in most cases be followed by raucous applause, but not on Friday. Snay said “thank you” to the silent, grieving audience and took her seat.
Springmann, a 2010 Nokomis graduate, died July 17 while leading a foot patrol in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. According to military officers who spoke at the funeral as well as his father, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Springmann, Tyler Springmann volunteered to lead the patrol, which is one of the most dangerous jobs in a war zone. He stepped on an underground bomb, which exploded and cut his life tragically short.
“It’s clear from how he lived his life that he was a giant among men,” said Army Maj. Gen. Peter C. Bayer Jr., who said he was speaking on behalf of Army Secretary John McHugh. “We honor his immense contributions to our Army and our nation.”
Springmann joined the Army just days after his high school graduation. In May of this year, he was deployed to Afghanistan with the 25th Stryker Brigade out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
Springmann was showered with numerous medals and honors, which were given to his family Friday. Some of them were presented by Gov. Paul LePage, who offered his condolences to the family in private but did not speak during the ceremony. Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, read a proclamation honoring Springmann that he said the state Legislature will adopt when it reconvenes.
“He was a part of the Nokomis community,” said Fredette. “He’s a great American, a great Mainer and a great soldier.”
In remembrance of Springmann, LePage ordered that United States and Maine flags be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Friday. There were dozens of American flags at the funeral Friday, including a sea of red, white and blue brought by the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group. The Patriot Guard Riders is a national organization that attends military funerals to “show respect for fallen heroes” and to shield mourning families from protesters, according to the group’s website. There were no protesters at Springmann’s funeral.
There was also a flag draped over Springmann’s coffin, which later was folded by a military honor guard and presented to his family. Springmann was buried later in the day at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Dexter.
In Springmann’s honor, one of his family members wrote a poem to Springmann’s mother, Tina Webber, as if it were written by Springmann himself. The poem, read by Springmann’s stepfather, Ben Martin, was loaded with emotion, leading many in the audience to tears.
“I know I told you I would fight till I won,” read Martin. “But God came and told me my work was done.”
When the funeral was over, Nokomis students Andraya Fickett and Kendra Dorr cried outside the school. Dorr, who said she was a close friend of Springmann’s, said his singular focus was to be a solder.
“He would have been very grateful for being so honored today,” she said before she and Fickett ran into the arms of another crying Nokomis student.