Like many other things in his short life, Robert C. Richardson III’s service with the Marines was accelerated.

He signed up for the service at 17, while still a junior in high school, a year before he could actually enlist. His mother, Patty Richardson, told the Marine recruiter she wouldn’t allow him to sign up without the ability to opt out if he changed his mind before he turned 18. He didn’t and went off to boot camp a month after graduating from high school.

He got married at 19 and completed two tours in Afghanistan by the time he was barely 22. He completed his four years of active duty ahead of time because he had taken little leave.

And he seemed to be readjusting to being back in his hometown of Limerick with a steady job that he loved and was looking ahead to building a house with his wife, Christina, his parents said.

But his mother said her son’s tendency to act first may have been what led him to take his own life Tuesday at age 23.

“We never saw any signs and, in all honesty, I don’t think he ever meant to die,” she said. “I think it was impulsive and not thought through. He seemed so happy and was just living his life. It was a reckless impulse – and he didn’t get a do-over.”

Both of his parents say Ricky, as he was called, wasn’t diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. They also said they made sure he knew he could talk to a counselor if he felt like he needed to.

“It took him some time to get readjusted and back into not having to worry about people and how they look at you and not having to look at your surroundings all the time,” his father, Robert C. Richardson, said. “It would have been nice to have him talk to someone, but he said he didn’t want to. He seemed to have adapted.”

Patty Richardson said her son and his wife had separated, but she also noted that they had been apart for much of their marriage – he was overseas for two of their three anniversaries,

She said her son had rushed through a lot of things in life and was always active.

As a boy, she said, he would shovel snow off the driveway at his house and then go down the street to a family friend’s house and shovel there.

“Ricky loved to shovel. That boy was a machine,” Patty Richardson said. She said the man who lived in the house down the street asked his wife why they paid Ricky to shovel when they had three boys of their own who could do it. She replied, “because he so loves it,” his mother said.

His father said his son also showed an early interest in hunting and was the first in the family to get a deer.

“He was 15 when he got an eight-point buck,” Richardson said. “He made the rest of us look like fools that year. That was pretty awesome.”

Ricky had a passion for hunting and firearms and his father said he stepped up his own interest so he could spend more time with his son.

Ricky’s enthusiasm for tinkering led him to machine shop schooling in the Marines and then the first assignment in Afghanistan.

Both his parents said he was nervous about going overseas, but not scared of what he might face.

“He was never afraid,” his mother said. “Fear was never really in his vocabulary, but there was a curiosity of what it would be like.”

After he talked to other members of his unit who had already been to Afghanistan about their experiences, he was much more confident, his mother said.

When he was sent overseas, he was adopted by Catherine McAuley School in Portland – where Ricky’s mother works – as “McAuley’s Marine,” and the school put together a care package weighing hundreds of pounds to send to him.

“The postage was ridiculous,” she said.

While in Afghanistan, the young corporal was assigned to the machine shop and then ran the shop on his second tour. He came up with a more effective, lightweight tip for a pole that troops on foot patrol used to detect improvised explosive devices – roadside bombs.

Ricky created the design, made a prototype and programmed the computerized cutting device to mass-produce the pieces after it was approved. The work earned him a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the highest award for that type of work, his mother said, along with a write-up in a Marine Corps newsletter. He also won a Professional Achievement Commendation for saving the Marine Corps more than $100,000 by fabricating repair parts.

That approach – figure out a problem and then fix it – symbolized Ricky’s approach to his work and his life, his mother said.

“If he was going to do it, he was going to do it,” she said. “He was a burn-the-candle-at-both-ends kind of guy.”