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2001 graduate laid to rest at Academy

  • Published
  • By Don Branum
  • Academy Spirit staff writer
A 2001 Air Force Academy graduate and instructor pilot with the 49th Fighter Training Squadron was laid to rest at the Academy Cemetery Sept. 9.

Maj. Richard Schafer III, 35, was the chief of standardization and evaluation for the squadron at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.

Stephanie Taylor, Schafer's sister, lamented Schafer's passing during a eulogy service at the Cadet Chapel.

"If there was something I wanted to do, I'd send him first," she recalled fondly. "If he didn't get in trouble, great. If he did, it wasn't me."

Taylor said Schafer always wanted to be the very best at everything he did. She remembered him as a devoted father and loving husband. He and his wife, Ashley, were "high school sweethearts" who married at the Cadet Chapel after graduating from the Academy together.

"I'm going to miss him very much," Taylor said. "I know he touched a lot of your hearts, and he touched mine, too."

Schafer was born in Houston and grew up in Austin, Texas. He attended Bowie High School, where he started the school's junior ROTC program and played fullback for the Bulldogs, according to his obituary. He was assigned to Cadet Squadron 18 while he attended the Academy. After he graduated, he attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin AFB, Texas, graduating at the top of his 2002 class.

Schafer had nearly 2,400 flight hours, including 1,200 hours in T-38 Talon aircraft and 864 hours flying F-16 Fighting Falcons. He accumulated 445 combat flying hours supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom during deployments to Southwest Asia in 2004 and Balad Air Base, Iraq, in 2005.

Schafer died Aug. 31 when the privately owned plane he was flying crashed near Abilene Regional Airport in Texas. Also killed was his brother, Matthew Schafer. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the accident.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Major Schafer's family as they cope with this painful tragedy," said Col. John Nichols, commander of the 14th Flying Training Wing at Columbus AFB, in a statement Sept. 3.

Schafer is survived by his wife and daughters, Avery and Rachel; his parents, Richard Schafer Jr. and Beth White Schafer; his sister Stephanie and her family; his sister-in-law, Victoria Schafer, and her sons; his parents-in-law, Ken and Cheryl Thornton; his sister-in-law, Amy Eskew, and her family; his grandfather, Richard Schafer Sr., and other relatives.

(Information compiled from 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs and staff reports.)