BREWER (AP) – A Brewer High School graduate working as a civilian security contractor in Iraq drove three co-workers to safety despite being mortally wounded by small arms fire in an ambush by insurgents near the Baghdad airport.

Rex G. Sprague III, a 39-year-old retired Army staff sergeant, died shortly after the attack Monday.

Family members in Maine, who learned of Sprague’s death from his wife, Natascha, in Germany, said the other occupants of the vehicle were unaware that Sprague had been hit until the vehicle stopped.

Two of the vehicles in the Baghdad-bound convoy were disabled in the attack. The third made it safely to a coalition base.

“He just drove through it to get to safety, and the report from the other guys in the vehicle was that everybody was upset,” Sprague’s brother, Mike, 32, of Jefferson, said Wednesday during an interview at the Sprague home in Brewer.

“And he was trying to calm everybody down and get them out of there,” said Sprague’s sister, Petra Lewis, 40, of Surry.

“And he did. He was able to drive to at least a safe zone. Nobody knew. He never told them he was hit,” Mike Sprague said.

Since January, a month after his Army retirement, Sprague had been working under a one-year contract for Titan Corp., an independent contractor in San Diego that provides security for translators and logistics personnel in Iraq.

Titan officials informed Natascha Sprague of her husband’s death. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office confirmed the death Wednesday through the U.S. State Department.

Sprague was wearing a ballistic vest, but the gunfire hit him the side where the vest didn’t provide protection, his family said. No one else in the vehicle was injured or killed.

“He was always trying to do good,” Lewis said. “He loved his country, I know that. He put other people before himself, but I guess that’s obvious.”

During his military career, Sprague had served in the first Gulf War, Panama and Bosnia. He met his wife in Germany, and he planned to return to Maine with her to start a family.

“He was always going somewhere, going to some conflict, but he always came home, so I didn’t worry,” Mike Sprague said. “If he wasn’t going somewhere or doing something, it wouldn’t be him.

“As long as I’ve known him growing up, he’s always been a hero to me,” the brother said. “I admired him.”

A funeral service will be held in Delaware sometime next week.

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