I met Caleb Rainey when I started visiting his father’s gun range a few years ago. I remember that though quite young he was very polite and articulate when talking with customers there at the range. I often saw him serving as a range safety officer and assisting students in the courses offered there at Proactive Defense.
Over the next couple of years I got to know him, as I was practicing at the range most weekends and took several of the range’s courses where he served as an assistant instructor. It quickly became clear that, despite his youth, he was expertly competent with firearms.
He was a tall, robust, and athletic kid with bright orange hair. He also had rosy, chubby-baby cheeks that were prominent partly because he was usually smiling. At over 6-feet tall and powerfully built, that smiling babyface seemed almost out of place. I found it interesting, too, that one so young had his level of maturity and poise. He was just a big, happy kid who seemed at once 15 and 30 years old. I liked him right off.
For whatever reason, Caleb liked me too. Often, when I was working defensive drills on my own, he would offer pointers and even join me in the training. Sometimes he’d augment the nature of the drill to emphasize some technique or lend a more realistic aspect to the training scenario. I was always glad for his help and for the opportunities to gain better insight into training. Because of one particular drill he suggested one day, Caleb and I started called each other “sweetie” and “honey” when we saw each other on the range; all because we got married.
This “marriage” came about because one day Caleb joined my practice and suggested we do a partner-escape drill. In the scenario, a husband and wife are shopping at the mall, where multiple gunmen start shooting people. The drill was that the husband would draw his pistol and physically move his wife to cover while giving return fire to cover their escape. By turns we would each play the panic-stricken, not-helping wife while the other got his gun out and shoved his free hand into the wife’s armpit and forcefully moved them both toward cover or an exit. As the husband/defender, we had to put 2 good hits on the nearest assailant while moving away fast, and physically moving/covering the wife.
Ever since that day a few years ago, sweetie and honey were all we called each other.
Shooting a firearm while in dynamic, direct contact with another person is something few folks get an opportunity to practice on any sort of regular basis. Even though I was a customer and he was there to make money from instruction, Caleb offered that opportunity to me on several occasions. Because that’s the kind of guy he was. He genuinely liked helping people to get better.
In the years to come, Caleb grew up and went off to school, so I seldom saw him at the range, but on those rare occasions when he dropped in, he always called over, “Hey sweetie! You free tonight?” I would assure him that I was, if s/he would cook me something nice. I always made a point to take time to visit with him, even if it was just for a quick greeting and small talk. He was a kind, happy, and positive kid (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!). You gotta take time to have fellowship with those kinds of folks when the opportunity presents itself.
After school, Caleb followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the police academy. Because of his immense skill, he earned Top Shot at the academy. He then joined the North Richland Hills PD and in 2018 he earned “Rookie of the Year.” While at the NRH Police Dept. he earned two Commendations and a Certificate of Recognition for his efforts and dedication. Neither I nor anyone who knew Caleb would be surprised at any of these accomplishments.
I haven’t seen Caleb in some time now, but I heard that he visited the gun range last Wednesday along with several of his fellow officers, there to get in some training. My friends tell me that he was not feeling well that day, suffering from some malady, but was at the range to train anyway.
Caleb died yesterday. He was 25 years old. He was one of the smartest, most competent, most poised men I’ve met, and we are diminished by his absence.
My heart aches for his family; some of them are my best friends. I hurt for them. Their world is upside down right now and I want to comfort them. I’ve spent much of today praying for them and I ask God to shed his grace on them. Mostly, I’m broken up by the mystery of why someone so bright and Godly and shiny and happy and giving has to be taken from us.
But selfishly, right now, I just miss my friend.