GENOA -- A Waite High School graduate who died in a car crash while stationed in Germany will be buried Thursday in Oregon.
Dakota Richey, 20, who most recently lived with his family in Genoa before being deployed, was killed in a single-vehicle crash Aug. 20 in Grafenwoeher, Germany, according to the Stars and Stripes, a news organization that covers the military.
According to the news agency, Mr. Richey's car went off a road and hit a concrete roadblock and crashed into a pole, trapping him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police in Eschenbach, Germany, told the news agency the crash was still under investigation.
Scott Welsh, Mr. Richey's mother's fiance, said in a telephone interview Monday that Mr. Richey graduated from Waite in 2010 and enlisted the following year in the Army, in which he was a private.
He had been in Germany about a month when he died.
"He planned on making a career out of it," Mr. Welsh said.
Mr. Welsh said he and his fiancee felt "a little bit of everything" when Mr. Richey said he wanted to join the Army.
"You're so proud because they want to serve the country, but at the same time you're scared to death for them because they're kids and they're putting themselves out there in the middle of things," he said.
At Waite, Mr. Richey wrestled for several years, Mr. Welsh said. While in elementary school, Mr. Richey played football until he broke a collarbone and doctors told him he could no longer play the sport.
"He was that kid -- when you have seen that boy smile and heard that laugh, it was just kind of infectious," Mr. Welsh said. "You couldn't help but like that kid."
Mr. Welsh said the family has spoken to officers in Mr. Richey's unit who told the family that, even though Mr. Richey had been under their command for a short time, "we grew to love this boy."
Mr. Welsh said he and Mr. Richey's mother, Chrisline Richey, talked recently to Mr. Richey about coming home -- he was so excited to be home for Christmas, Mr. Welsh said.
He was excited because he knew that, after Christmas, it would be only a short time before he was sent to Afghanistan, Mr. Welsh said.
"Every picture of him in the Army, he just has a big grin on his face," Mr. Welsh said. "He was just so happy to do what he was doing."
Before he joined the Army, Mr. Richey volunteered at several soup kitchens and worked seasonally at Lajti Farms in Oregon for two years.
He told his family that, after he had finished his military career, he wanted to buy a farm.
"He's just that type of kid that loved to work," Mr. Welsh said.
-- Taylor Dungjen