RENO – Nevada Army Guard Spc Michael Highline was poised to enjoy several positive new chapters to his life this winter. The 36-year-old Cold Springs resident had just transferred to Charlie Company, 422nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion in Stead and was entrusted to become the unit’s driving instructor and examiner; in his personal life, he had just recently become engaged to Nancy Crombie, also of Cold Springs.
Highline’s promising future was never realized, however, as the father of four died in a vehicle accident on Dec. 14, 2020, in Cold Springs while en route to military training. He was buried Dec. 29 with military honors at the Northern Nevada Veterans Cemetery in Fernley, Nevada. He is survived by Walker, 14, Emerald, 11, Violet, 8, and Ryker, 6; previous spouse Shannon Highline, brothers Wayne, William, Matthew, sister Jessica, mother Katheryn and Crombie.
“At the drop of a dime, he would do anything to help anyone,” said Crombie, recounting how one of her first experiences with Highline involved his help when her car broke down. “He was the first to help and take care of a situation.”
Crombie admitted Highline could be quite the character.
“He was a combination of Peter Pan and Steve Urkel,” Crombie said. “He was very personable and sometimes goofy.”
Highline enjoyed time spent with family and was excited become the step-father to twins Tommy and Isabelle, 10.
“He loved playing any type of game with kids,” Crombie said. “You could sit in one room and hear him and the kids playing throughout the rest of the house.”
His mother, Katheryn, recounted many stories and memories.
“I remember his face when he found out he was going to be a father,” she recalled. “He gifted me a framed picture of the ultrasound.”
Highline grew up in Reno and graduated from Hug High. He joined the Nevada Army Guard in December 2010 and became a familiar Soldier in northern Nevada as a supply specialist, armorer and wheeled-vehicle mechanic for several Washoe County units. In his civilian occupation, Highline worked at Tesla, Inc.
In the Nevada Army Guard, Highline was a respected Soldier and was set to take on a new responsibility as Charlie Company’s military license instructor and examiner.
“He did everything I ever asked him to do and I trusted him completely. He was a hard worker,” said Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Polson, a previous military supervisor of Highline. “What I will miss about Highline won’t be his character in uniform, but rather his character out of it. He loved his kids and his family meant the world to him.”
Highline was widely known as a coffee connoisseur, always within reach of a 20-ounce coffee mug. One famous story concerning Highline and his affinity for coffee occurred in 2014 when Highline was in the 757th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion preparing for an international deployment. Fearing Highline was dehydrated from drinking too much coffee instead of water, the unit’s first sergeant ordered Highline to drink only water and abstain from coffee. Highline’s appendix suddenly burst the next day. Many of the unit’s Soldiers claimed Highline’s lack of java had caused the appendicitis. Regardless the cause, Highline quickly recovered while swilling his favorite beverage.
In another memorable beverage story from annual training in 2018, Highline participated in his unit’s milk drinking challenge. Unfortunately, Highline could not drink milk as well as coffee and a few pints of milk reappeared after the contest.
Polson summed up the Nevada Guard’s feeling about losing its memorable Soldier and character.
“Highline was my brother. He was his children’s father, And he was a Nevada Soldier,” Polson said. “I believe he viewed all of those aspects of his life equally, with as much love and dedication as was his character.” Highline was posthumously awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his contributions during the past decade to the Nevada Army Guard. He had previously received two Army Achievement Medals.