“I feel like my daddy kind of saved the world, I know he deployed to keep us safe.” – Rachel Schafer
It was at James Bowie High School in Austin, TX, that Ashley and Rick Schafer fell in love.
High school sweethearts, the two graduated in 1997, and while Ashley stayed in Austin to work and go to school, Rick went to Colorado to pursue his dream of attending the United States Air Force Academy.
Despite the challenges that come with being 1,000 miles apart for over four years, Rick and Ashley stayed strong in their love for each other, building their relationship, and waiting for the day they could be together again.
That day came in July of 2001, after Rick graduated from the Air Force Academy, and they said, “I do,” to the great adventure of spending their life together.
The adventure of marriage and the Air Force, took them many places, even around the world! 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 tower with him, just listening,” Ashley said, “and 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.
Before they knew it, the adventure of having two little girls turned their house pink and sparkly and their macho fighter pilot 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!”
Rick was involved in every single aspect of the girls’ lives. From reading Bible stories to playing dress-up and teaching them how to use their pink BB guns safely, Rick was a dedicated and amazing dad.
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.
He was “always outgoing and upbeat,” Ashley said. “His sense of humor was incomparable and he had a lasting impact on everyone he met. His heart was focused on God’s service to others and service to our country.”
He 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 when their dad was killed.
“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.”
Avery, in her own words, is “awesome!” And it’s true! She loves reading, math and science, building legos and small robots, hiking, riding her bike, and music. When she grows up, she wants to be a robotics engineer.
Rachel, like her older sister, enjoys building things with legos, hiking, and riding her bike. She also likes digging in the dirt and watching movies. When she grows up, she wants to work with animals, maybe at the zoo.
Ashley, along with being a mother to her two smart and beautiful girls, is a fitness instructor and volunteer in her community.
Despite the grief and pain that came with the loss of their hero, Tracer’s 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.