|From Anchorage Alaska Daily News adn.com
Fort Rich medic dies in Iraq war
MISSION: Springer believed U.S. needed to stay until the Iraqi army was able to keep peace on its own.
By KATIE PESZNECKER
Anchorage Daily News
Published: March 26, 2007
Last Modified: March 26, 2007 at 01:50 AM
A medic from Fort Richardson on foot patrol in Baghdad was killed in an explosion Friday, one of four casualties the Army identified Sunday.
Spc. Lance C. Springer II, 23, of Fort Worth, Texas, died of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit, the Army reported. Springer was a medic with Fort Rich's 1st Squadron, 40th Calvary Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. The brigade's 3,500 paratroopers left Alaska in November.
Springer's father, Lance Springer, reached in Fort Worth on Sunday, said his son was proud of his military service.
"He wanted to be a soldier," the elder Springer said. "He's always loved the Army, his whole life."
The younger Springer -- who went by his middle name, Craig -- enlisted with the expectation that he would deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan, his father said.
"His view on it was, 'We don't want to still be there; we wish the mission was over and we could come home,' " Springer's father said. "But he recognizes the mission isn't over. ... His attitude is, 'We're the army for the Iraqi people until their own army is strong enough. He felt like they were supposed to still be there."
Springer was one of four Iraq casualties identified by the military Sunday. The three other soldiers died Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in separate attacks in Ramadi, Baghdad and Habbaniyah.
The identifications were announced the same day roadside bombs killed five U.S. soldiers in Iraq -- four dying in a single strike in a volatile province northeast of the capital, the military said.
Springer is the 27th Fort Richardson soldier to die from injuries suffered in Iraq since the brigade deployed there last fall, according to the Daily News listing on the deaths. At least 72 soldiers based in Alaska or originally from here have died since the war began.
Springer signed up for the military more than two years ago after graduating from high school in Fort Worth and getting mechanic's training at nearby Tarrant County College.
He joined the Army intending to put his mechanic skills to use, his dad said. But the Army made Springer a combat medic. He savored the role, his father said, and also signed up for airborne duty.
After medic training and jump school, the Army sent Springer to Fort Richardson. The Texan loved his new home.
"He had already re-enlisted for four more years and wanted all those years to be in Alaska," his dad said.
Before the brigade deployed, Springer got a weeklong visit from his father and mother, Evanna, and they toured around the region.
"We thought it was beautiful," Springer's dad said. "We did a flightseeing tour of Denali, and we also went down and did a fishing trip on the Kenai Peninsula, took a boat tour from Seward. That was last September. And they started deploying in October."
While overseas, the younger Springer talked to his parents at least once a week, by phone or e-mail. He told them about routine duties -- missions to capture insurgents or outings into Iraq neighborhoods where he'd pass out treats to kids.
"He liked to give out candy and toys to the Iraqi children," his father said. "That was something he would do on his own. A lot of soldiers do that."
Springer came home for two weeks in January.
"He'd been in combat for three straight months," his dad said. "And the first thing he did was, he went to the refrigerator to drink a glass of real milk. Then he took a shower because he hadn't had a shower in four days. Then he went out and bought an assault rifle because he felt naked without a gun in his hand."
When Springer died, the Army sent officials to tell his family. His 18-year-old sister was home alone.
"They wouldn't tell her why they were there," the elder Springer said. "But she had a bad feeling."
The family knew that if Springer was wounded, the Army would try to have him call with the news.
"So we knew he was either dead or very, very badly wounded," Springer's father said. "They came back and gave us the news. I guess it was about nine hours after he died that they were standing in our living room, telling us."
The devastating news seemed particularly abrupt for the elder Springer, since he had spoken to his son only the previous morning.
"One of the main things we'd talked about was ... he hadn't had a lot of chances to go to chapel. But he'd gone to chapel the Sunday before he was killed." The father said his son had mentioned how much that opportunity meant to him.
Springer was a member of the Church of God, both in Fort Worth and in Anchorage. His family got calls this weekend from members of the Anchorage church, grieving the death of the former Boy Scout who loved playing video games and off-roading in his Jeep.
Aside from his father, Springer is survived by his mother; sister Michelle, 18; and brother Christopher, 20. The family today plans to visit a military cemetery near their home.
"If it's as beautiful as what we've been hearing, we'll probably go with that," the elder Lance Springer said. "Because he was a soldier, and he would be happy being buried with other soldiers."
Daily News reporter Katie Pesznecker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.