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Learning Center Experience
Spielhagen, 34, is a Team Sergeant in the 10th Special Forces Group in Fort
Carson, Colorado, and a student at Kaplan University. Born and raised in Boston, he went with his
wife and daughter to run the Boston Marathon and to see his extended
family. Two minutes after he crossed the
finish line, the nightmare began.
that he shaved 7 minutes off his time from last year, Spielhagen was exhausted
after finishing the grueling 26 mile run.
“I heard the first bomb only 50 meters away, and I thought it was strange to hear cannon fire. I turned around and saw the smoke, and my military experience as a Special Forces demolition engineer automatically kicked in. It most certainly wasn’t cannon fire. I knew something catastrophic had occurred, and I knew there were people that were hurt and maybe even dead. I had to help.
tried to start running but his tired legs seized up.
minutes later, the second bomb went off.
He was able to call his wife on his cell phone before the towers were
shut down, so he knew that she and his daughter were safe. “Then I had no problem running toward the
first bomb.” He pushed a volunteer aside
under the finish line sign and weaved his way through three separate fences to
get to the victims. Spielhagen then
visually assessed them and saw that the first two were stabilized and not in
need of critical care. The third one was a blonde woman who was in need of
urgent care. She was losing blood and
was in bad shape. “I told her I was
going to help her: that all she had to do was trust me, and that she was going
to get through this.”
knew her lower body injuries were severe.
her overall condition, I started from the hips down. She had a deep laceration
on one leg that went nearly to the bone, a severed Achilles tendon, and her
left leg was shattered into an L-shaped position.”
used what supplies he could gather from nearby medics to stabilize the woman
until she could be treated by the medics and transported to the hospital. Spielhagen treated her laceration and splinted
her thighs, knees, and ankles together and started an IV.
“At that point, an emergency medical
technician came up and classified her as ‘urgent surgery,’ the most critical
status that civilian medics have,” he said.
They carried the woman away on a stretcher.
Spielhagen was told that if not for his
care, the woman would have probably died.
“I put her back together and saved her,” Spielhagen said. “I just kept thinking about my family and I
would hope someone would do the same for them.”
Spielhagen set off to find his wife and daughter. He knew they were next to the second bomb
site. “After an hour I found them. We
were reunited when my wife saw me and called my name. I turned around, kissed
her and my daughter, put my daughter on my shoulders, and told my wife to stay
with me—that we needed to get out of there. Luckily, since I grew up in the area, I knew
my way around.” They made it home
had always been physically fit growing up in Boston. He played soccer and wrestled in high
school. It wasn’t his first time running
the Boston Marathon. He also ran in
2012, the second hottest marathon in Boston Marathon history.
says his military background, which includes three tours of duty in Iraq, was
really what helped prepare him for the tragedy.
have been in the US Army for 16 years.
My grandfather was an inspiration to me.
He served in the US Army and was an 82nd Airborne World War II veteran. He attended one of the first airborne schools
in December 1942. Ironically, I
graduated airborne school in December 2001, nearly 60 years later! I think my grandfather would be proud of me
and my actions.”
addition to his military duties, Spielhagen is currently earning his Bachelor
of Science in Communications at Kaplan University. He expects to graduate in two years. “I chose Kaplan University due to its
competitive program and military assistance.
I know that having my degree will open up more doors for the future,” he
said. Spielhagen enlisted for a few more
years, and when he graduates, he may enter his studied field.
the meantime, he is back running, along with his wife, who plans on competing
in the Boston Marathon with him next year.
on that day in Boston, Spielhagen says he suffers from some post-traumatic
stress after the tragedy that killed three people and injured more than
260. “I can still see the victims, the
blood, the woman’s injuries. I can smell
the black powder and burnt clothes. I can remember everything I told people
around me to stabilize my patient. It runs through my mind at a couple of times
a day,” he said. “It was not my first
traumatic incident, especially after serving in Iraq three times, but it really
hit home being on the same grounds my grandparents, my mother, my sister, and I
grew up playing on.”
says it helps to talk about what happened, and advises others to do the same.
asked if he has been in contact with the woman he helped, Spielhagen said that
he knows who she is and that he has tried to contact her but due to patient
confidentiality laws, the hospital needs to respect her privacy. “I read the other day she had her 7th
surgery on her leg(s). I think about her
a lot and I hope she is doing ok. I hope
one day that we can meet again.”
Kaplan University, we feel fortunate to have everyday heroes like Sargent Special
Forces Group Spielhagen at home and serving our country.
This testimonial was solicited by Kaplan University. Views and
opinions stated herein are the individual’s and not necessarily those of Kaplan
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