The Mountain family. From left, Kira Mountain Yeary, Laura Mountain, Mike Mountain and Russell Mountain (Special to the Democrat)
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Russell R. Mountain survived a six-month deployment in Afghanistan.
He returned to Tallahassee last week safe and sound, eager to be with family and friends.
One day later, on Friday, Aug. 22, Mountain was killed when his motorcycle collided with a car on Thomasville Road, stunning those who knew and loved him.
A Tallahassee native, Leon High graduate and Air Force senior airman, the 26-year-old Mountain is being remembered by his family as a confident, warm and caring man who faced life head-on and would do anything to help someone in need.
"Russell was a character," his older sister, Kira Yeary, told the Democrat. "He had a way about him that just put everyone at ease. He had a wonderful personality."
Yeary, 30, and her husband, Wes, got a chance to spend a few days with Mountain at their Arlington, Va., home before he returned to Tallahassee. They had dinner and caught up.
Mountain told Yeary of his plans to move back to Tallahassee, buy a house and enroll at Florida State University to complete his degree in international affairs. His wanted to get a master's degree.
Mountain had been stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and saw Yeary and her husband often. They tried unsuccessfully to get him to attend college near them so they could visit frequently, but for him, there was no other school he wanted to attend.
"He was adamant about getting his degree from FSU," Yeary said. "He was also looking into a reserve unit in this area so he could be in the Air Force reserves."
Mountain joined the Air Force in 2010. You could say it was in his DNA. His maternal grandfather was a bomber pilot in WWII; his paternal grandfather was in the Navy in the Pacific theater; several of Mountain's cousins serve in the Marines and Navy.
"I think being in the military gave him a lot of focus," said Yeary, who added that he repeatedly told her husband "that his deployment was really the most rewarding part of his service. The camaraderie they had together over there, it really made him proud of what he was doing."
More than 20 of Mountain's friends from the military have come to Tallahassee for visitation with the family Thursday and for funeral services today.
Mountain's parents, Laura and Michael Mountain, were not ready to speak about their son, but in an email said, "We are so proud of the man Russell became. We loved him all his life and we still do, because that is all we have left to give him. We are incredibly grateful for the support of the U.S. Air Force and the family and friends who have provided comfort to us at a devastating time."
The Tallahassee Police Department continues to investigate the crash. TPD spokesman David Northway said Mountain collided with the car on Thomasville Road as it was turning left onto Woodgate Way.
Northway said the driver of the car stayed on scene and police were continuing to work to determine the cause of the crash.
Mountain played baseball his whole life, but stood out at Leon High School where he pitched.
Baseball is the sport in the Mountain house. His father Michael taught Mountain and Yeary everything about baseball and instilled a love for the game. They became life-long ardent fans of the Seminoles and Atlanta Braves.
"He played for his whole life," Yeary said. "He decided baseball was what he wanted to do. He was a great pitcher and he really enjoyed it."
Yeary said her brother treated life like an adventure and drew people to him with his sense of humor and wit.
"I think that he was just so laid back and funny and had just a great attitude," she said. "You could tell he lived life to the fullest. He didn't hold anything back."
In the week since his death, Mountain's family and friends have gathered in Tallahassee for support and to reminisce about his loving personality.
"It's hard to imagine spending the rest of my life without him," Yeary said, "but we have 26 years of amazing stories and memories. That's what's been getting me through it when I have a tough moment.