It was at James Bowie High School in Austin, Texas, that Ashley and Rick fell in love. High school sweethearts, the two graduated in 1997. Upon graduation Ashley stayed in Austin to work and go to school, while Rick went to Colorado to pursue his dream of attending the United States Air Force Academy. After spending four years apart, Ashley finally became Mrs. Schafer in July 2001 after Rick’s graduation.
The Air Force took them many places around the world early in their marriage. One of Ashley’s favorite memories with her airman was while they were living in Italy. Rick was assigned a temporary duty in Slovakia, and his job was to man the tower at a bombing range used for training purposes. Ashley had the opportunity to go along with him and sit up in the tower while he worked.
“I had a blast sitting up in the tower with him, just listening,” Ashley said, “I sat outside on the small catwalk while the F-16’s buzzed us! Then we were able to go into the city at night for amazing food and exploring. I’m so grateful to have had that experience with my love!”
The next chapter in their great adventure began when they welcomed their first little girl, Avery, into the world. Not long after, they welcomed their second little one, Rachel. Having two little girls turned their house pink and sparkly and their macho fighter pilot dad into a professional at putting hair into ponytails. It’s safe to say that Avery and Rachel had their daddy wrapped around their little fingers.
“The girls loved to dress up in their fluffy princess dresses and have tea parties,” Ashley said. “They invited their Daddy to these tea parties and he would come into the living room wearing his full Air Force Mess Dress, just to sit down in a kid-sized chair at their little table and eat a cookie off of a tiny plastic yellow plate.”
Along with being an incredible dad to Avery and Rachel and husband to Ashley, Rick was an accomplished aircraft builder and pilot, skilled woodworker, expert at home remodeling and welding, and he loved to hunt.
Rick was a decorated Air Force Pilot, with over 2,000 flight hours in the F-16 and T-38. Known as “Tracer” to his fellow pilots, he was well accomplished and excelled in all he did. From flying combat missions over Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan to serving as an instructor, preparing future fighter pilots for combat, he was an exceptional airman.
Over Labor Day Weekend in 2014, the Schafers took a family vacation while Rick was on leave. It was during that time that Major Rick “Tracer” Schafer was tragically killed, alongside his brother, in their private airplane. Avery was 8 years old and Rachel was 6 years old at the time of their dad’s death.
“We have good days and bad days,” Ashley said. “We have tremendous support and it has helped immensely in our day to day routines. We have carried on all while carrying our hero with us every single day.”
Despite the grief and pain that came with the loss of their hero, the Schafer ladies continue to carry on each day, knowing that even in the most difficult of times, Rick is and will always be their rock, motivating them and inspiring them in this adventure called life.