Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 17, 2011

On Facing Death

Corpus Christi, Texas

Craig in helicopter.

My brother-in-law, Craig Reynolds, has stage four cancer and is facing imminent death. Over the past few months Craig has lost almost half his body weight but none of his spirit and certainly none of his faith. Craig came into our lives when he was serving as the Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas and later married Cheryl’s sister Cindie. As a Navy aviator, facing death is nothing new to Craig. He served three deployments in Vietnam between 1967 and 1974. Craig piloted helicopters into harm’s way to rescue downed pilots and wounded soldiers and then transport them either back to a ship or to the hospital in Da Nang. In the early days of the Vietnam war, helicopter pilots like Craig sat on boiler plate to protect themselves from gunfire from below. Whether on actual rescue missions or performing training runs, the possibility of death was ever-present. “The Navy,” said Craig, “trained us well so that we could calmly deal with any dangerous situation or life-threatening emergency.” But it was more than his Navy training that helped Craig through three deployments in Vietnam — it was his faith in Christ that kept him steady and grounded.

Craig meeting Pope John Paul II.

One of the things that I have always admired about Craig is his integrity and his unwillingness to compromise his faith. The military community can be a tough place for Christ-followers. But Craig never allowed the world to press him into its mold. I have never heard him use foul language and those who served with him can speak to how Craig consistently lived out his faith. In 1986, while serving as the Executive Officer of the USS Inchon, Craig received notice that he and two other officers had been invited to the Vatican to meet Pope John Paul II. Craig, who is not a Catholic, asked why he had been invited. The reply was that his superior officers had recommended him because of his reputation as a strong follower of Christ. Craig told me that when they attended the Mass officiated by the Pope, the Pope kept staring at him. After the Mass, the Pope approached him first and asked him if he was related to the Kennedy family. Craig told him that they had attended the same school but that he was not related. Later, he and the Pope talked about their faith in Christ. The Pope shared about how he used to sneak out of the Vatican in plain clothes in his old Ford Pinto to be among the people. But, he was no longer allowed to do that after the assassination attempt on his life. Craig remarked that Pope John Paul II was one of the finest individuals that he had ever met.

Craig and Cindie Reynolds

Craig’s faith sustained him through three deployments in Vietnam and earned him the respect of others in the military. Today, his faith in Christ is nothing short of inspiring to me as he faces the toughest battle of his life. When my wife Cheryl and I walked into his room on Friday evening, he was reading the gospels. When he turned and saw us he smiled, placed his New Testament on the table in front of him, and greeted us warmly. “I was just reading the Gospels,” he said. “Jesus sure had some tough things to say that require us to do more than sit on the sideline. We must make a commitment to follow Him no matter what.” Craig has followed Christ through years of dangerous military missions and throughout his military career. But, more importantly, Christ has followed Craig through every adventure, keeping watch over him, and now walks beside Craig in the valley of the shadow of death. Craig understands what it means when the Bible says that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). As a Christ-follower, Craig is facing death with confidence. “God can heal me if He chooses,” Craig said from his bed, “but regardless, I am in a win-win situation.” He’s right. The Apostle Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). There is no better way to face death than with Christ.


Responses

  1. Thank you Craig for faithfully serving our country. More importantly, thank you for living your life for Christ so others can see!

  2. Captain Reynolds,

    Omar requested I read about your life and career. What can I say? It would have been an honor to serve under your command at NAS Corpus Christi. My family has stayed at the Naval Lodge there on two different occasions. But my first military “home” was NAS Dallas, and when the base was decommissioned, Fleet Hospital Dallas moved to NAS Fort Worth.

    You have undoubtedly served our nation well and America is a better place for having laid claim to you as a citizen. You have kept your watch well and it appears you are nearing the end of your earthly duties. Our traditions hail from the seas. We are hearty sailors and we love the sting of the salt and the smell of the sea. I hope the welcoming memories of a life well-served at the behest of our nation are part of the beautiful memory bank which comforts you during difficult moments.

    When the time comes, may our beloved fair winds and following seas accompany you on that final voyage. And may the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be sufficient for both you and your family. You have kept your oath. Today, I stand as a witness to your fidelity.

    Psalm 15:1, 4b

    Semper Fi,

    LCDR Tammy Swofford, USNR, NC

  3. Thank you for allowing us to step into Craig’s life~ We continue to pray.

  4. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of Craig’s life. Such a fine example of serving God and country. Thank you, Craig, for letting Omar tell us a few of your stories and thank you for serving our country. God be with you.

  5. Thank you Omar for sharing a part of Craig’s life and especially his Faith in Christ. Facing death is surely not an easy part of life, but with Jesus Christ in our life, it will be okay. We continue to pray for Craig and his family during these days. God be with each and every one.

  6. As a great aunt of Tiffany Steele Rogers, I was greatly touched by the article
    of Clints father. I met both briefly at Tiffany and Clints wedding. God bless you all at this critical time. Love and peace to all. Anna Robinson

  7. Thank you for sharing Craig’s story. I sent it on to my son who is serving in the Navy right now somewhere in the Mediterranean while his pregnant wife lives here with us. He wrote back that he was greatly encouraged and strengthened by it. Praying for you all.

  8. As the Lord Jesus reaches out to call you to Himself, may you know a peace in sweet transition. Your service has been a blessing to this country and your journey, a beautiful testimony.

  9. Your unwavering faith has been an inspiration and encouragement to us. May our Lord hold you, Cindie and your family close as He calls you home. Love to each of you.

  10. Craig you have been such an inspiring messenger of faith, I truly believe Jesus sent you into our life for a reason. May God be with you.

  11. Craig and Cindy, together with Jesus you answer the question, “Which is the great commandment of the law? ” – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind – and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” You are, and will continue to be, a great encouragement. We love you.

  12. Craig, through Omar and Cheryl, I followed your illness for several months. I am so sorry to hear of your weakened state. However, it was only yesterday while Omar and I were visiting that I learned of your background and tours in Vietnam. I spent time there and can relate. It is sad when we think of the dangers we encountered in harm’s way and, now, to hear of how you are suffering and living in pain. I have others who served there and contracted the same condition. Craig, I write for two reasons; one, because I appreciate your service as one of those daring helicopter pilots who routinely risk their lives rescuing others stranded in remote locations of Vietnam and second for standing firm in your faith for Jesus Christ. I assure you one of the most memorable sounds which I remember so well is the muttering and, then, the “whop-whop” of the Huey when you fellows came in for landing to get us. It is also encouraging to hear of your continued faith in Jesus and that you are working on a project to help others come to know Him. Thank you for your services in Vietnam and, now, the war for Jesus Christ.

  13. “Rock”, my dear brother in Christ.

    You are an inspiration to me and to everyone who knows you. It has been a blessing to get to know you better during this past year in our Growth Group. Each member of the group prays for you every day. Thank you for your service to our country. You have made America a better place to live as well as Corpus Christi, Texas.

    Joel

  14. Craig you are a true testament of the gospel. I feel privilege to be able to know a true Christian. I pray for you and Cindy. I ask God to have an angel with you. It was a blessing to be able to read your story. Feel like I got to know you better. You are a very strong person. You have touched a lot of people’s lives as a Christian. Thank you for your service.

    Cherry M.

  15. From the first time we met, we knew you were a man of great conviction, truth, and character. Craig, you are such a wonderful example and influence for us and truly a brave leader for our Christian faith. We are sad that you have had to experience this terrible human illness, but we know for eternity the victory is yours. God bless you and your family.

    Buz and Janet

  16. Craig,you have been such an inspiration to our class and to me. You’ve added so much to our bible study and touched each of our lives. We love you and Cindi and when you go to be with your Saviour in Glory, we will be here for her. God bless and strengthen you both.

    Karen Edwards

  17. We love you Craig. We are touched deeply by your courage, faith, and witness to our Lord and Savior. Love and prayers till we meet again.
    Bill & Jan Ferguson

  18. I hold you and your family in my prayers. I have witnessed the abundant blessings that God bestowed upon you on this earth, and I firmly believe the best is yet to come. God see you safely home, and wrap his loving arms around Cindie, Reecie, Clint, Ryan, and other family and friends as you travel this difficult road. We shall meet again.

  19. I was so sorry to hear this AM of Craigs passing and Wish to express My Wife Triny and My heartfelt sympathy.
    I worked with Craig at Sam Kane Beef from the time He started thier until April,1,2009 when I retired.I enjoyed very much the time working as a fellow employee.He was a very honorable and dedicated man!! It was a pleasure to work with Him.
    Again our sincere sympathy to all His family and friends.
    Dwain Holmes


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