BULLHEAD CITY — Lyric Young, an E-4 specialist in the U.S. Army assigned to Fort Drum, N.Y., had spent a couple of weeks of his three-week leave visiting loved ones in the area before starting his long drive back east.
His last trip to the Tri-state was in December, and he had a lot of catching up to do.
Young, who family members said really enjoyed taking long drives, didn’t make it back to base. He died Saturday in a vehicle accident on Interstate 40 near Gallup, N.M., at the age of 22.
Young participated in ROTC during his freshman year at Mohave High School and joined the Army soon after graduation in 2014. Young’s time in the service included a year in Afghanistan, family members said.
The charismatic man was still thinking about what direction his life might take after the military but Young intended to go to college, according to family members. He considered careers in law enforcement, the National Guard or Border Patrol.
“He had a lot of ideas,” said his mother, Yvette Mendez.
Tears and sometimes laughter flowed as some of Young’s closest relatives gathered to talk about him, including his mother, some of his siblings and his maternal grandparents.
Young has a large family that includes his stepfather Ramon Mendez, another sister, Justice Young, two step-siblings, Nelson Catalina and Arriana Cereles, and his father and stepmother, Richard and Christine Young.
Young’s sisters imagined he would have wanted to have a family because he really loved being around children, they said.
“He always made me laugh when he was playing with the kids,” said Rebecca Guerrero, one of his sisters. “There are a lot of nieces and nephews.”
While he was “definitely a ladies man” he also was “very caring, giving and loving,” Mendez said.
And he was a watchful older brother.
“Lyric was protective,” said his younger sister, Salina Young. “He told every guy to stay away.”
Mendez also talked about Young’s love of food.
“He liked to eat a lot,” she said. “He always wanted a home-cooked meal.”
His grandmother, Rebecca Yudico, said quantity was as important as quality.
She put her hands out with a space of more than a foot and said, “The Avi’s burrito.”
“He loved my homemade salsa,” said his grandfather, Ruben Yudico. “He’d tell his friends ‘My Grandpa makes the best.’ ”
Mendez chose her son’s unique first name from a 1994 movie titled “Jason’s Lyric.”
He sometimes would ask why he didn’t have a less distinctive name, like Esteban. Mendez knew Young loved his name. When he’d walk up to someone and introduce himself, he said his name to them with a happy expression, Mendez remembered fondly.
“He always had a big, big smile on his face,” his mother said. “His smile was very contagious.”
The young man talked about getting a tattoo with the phrase “Forever Young.”
Family members looked at a couple of framed portraits of Young appearing fierce and handsome in military garb. These were the photographs chosen to be on display during the family’s memorial service.
His stepfather, Ramon Mendez, held it up and said, “He’ll always be Forever Young.”
A candlelight vigil is being planned at Mohave High School.
The accident that took Young’s life Saturday evening remains under investigation. His vehicle struck the back of a tractor-trailer. The other driver was unharmed. State police in New Mexico said no alcohol was involved but that seat belts weren’t used properly, according to the Associated Press.
There is a GoFundMe page set up to help the family with expenses: https://www.gofundme.com/lyric-young.