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Columbus honors pilot after reaching 'High Flight'

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stephanie Englar
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.

Columbus Air Force Base held a memorial service for Maj. Rick "Tracer" Schafer, 49th Fighter Training Squadron Instructor Pilot, Sept. 19 in the Kaye Auditorium.

Schafer passed away Aug. 31 along with his brother, Matthew Taylor Schafer, after their personal plane crashed following take-off in Abilene, Texas. He is survived by his wife, Ashley, and their children, Avery and Rachel.

The memorial service included an invocation and eulogy by Lt. Col. Brian McCormack and was followed by remarks from Lt. Col. Paul K. Carlton III, 49th Fighter Training Squadron Commander.

Billy Ferguson, the Senior Minister of the 7th St. Church of Christ where the Schafer family attended church, offered words of comfort to the crowd before they adjourned to the Gene Smith Plaza for the Aviator's Tribute. The tribute consisted of the words from the poem, "High Flight" and a missing man flyover demonstration by the 49th FTS.

Hovering there, I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.

Schafer was known by his friends and fellow pilots as "Tracer," and was a decorated Air Force Veteran with over 2,000 flight hours in the F-16 and T-38. He graduated at the top of his class from pilot training at Laughlin AFB, Texas, back in 2002 after graduating from the Air Force Academy in 2001. Following pilot training, he attended training for the F-16 at Luke AFB, Arizona, in 2003. His first assignment after training was the 555th Fighter Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Following his assignment to Italy, Schafer came back to the United States and became an Instructor Pilot who taught Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals at Moody AFB, Georgia; Sheppard AFB, Texas; and twice at Columbus AFB, Mississippi

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace where never lark, or even eagle flew. And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

(Words from the poem "High Flight" written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. are included in this story.)