Thursday, May 15, 2003

May 8, 2003, column:
Usually, you find here a link to the Amarillo Globe-News Web site,
where the columns are archived. This time, because of editing errors
and omissions in the newspaper version, the column is presented here
directly in its original form:

Eric Das carried out family's mission

By Mike Haynes
The 2-year-old boy maneuvered his toy lawnmower near the front window,
took a look outside and began pushing it back and forth on the carpet,
cutting make-believe grass.
With another glance outside, little Seth pulled his plaything into a bedroom
and started “mowing” again. His counterpart out in the real yard, a lanky
teen-ager named Eric, had moved to the other side of the house, and the
toddler was following him.
In fact, Seth Richardson watched Eric any time he and his parents, Keith
and Sandy Richardson, got together with Eric’s family. Something about
the energetic, friendly young man attracted his attention.
A dozen years later, Eric still was doing something little boys
like to emulate. He was 30 years old and flying a U.S. Air Force F-15E
Strike Eagle jet near Tikrit, Iraq. He already had made successful flights,
helping push his country toward a quick end to the war.
In the middle of the Iraqi night April 7, however, something
happened. Ten days later, Eric’s family – then the Richardsons and scores
of other friends in Amarillo and around the world – found out that Eric had
been killed when the F-15E went down. The same was confirmed later for
his weapons officer, 37-year-old Maj. William Watkins of Virginia.
At an Amarillo memorial service April 24 for Capt. Eric Das,
retired Maj. Gen. Jerry White was the last speaker. And while the Air Force
connection was enough, there was an even stronger one.
White is international president of the Navigators, a Christian
ministry for which Eric’s parents, Bruce and Rosie Das, have worked for
many years. The Navigators are known for their efforts to spread God’s
message on military bases and college campuses, but they also operate
in other settings.
In Amarillo and Canyon, Bruce and Rosie have led local businessmen,
college students and others toward Jesus Christ. They taught adult
Sunday school classes at Paramount Terrace Christian Church before
moving to First Presbyterian Church.
The Das family has touched countless lives using the biblical philosophy
that Christ’s disciples, or followers, should develop new disciples through
one-on-one relationships.
At the memorial service, the heartfelt and moving testimony of
those who knew Eric established that the son – like his sisters Melody
and Elisa – had received from his parents the seeds of Christian salvation
and Christian living and already had been planting more seeds from Texas
to North Carolina and beyond. He had done everything at full throttle,
including his efforts to please his heavenly commanding officer.
He had been part of the process Paul described in 2 Timothy 2:2-3:
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses
entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure
hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
White said Eric’s life was not lost, but completed. That makes
sense to the head, but to the heart, it will take time for the Das family and
for Nikki, the pilot’s soul mate, fellow Air Force officer and wife of less than
two years.
For all of them, however, the focus always has been outward. They
might be comforted, then, by White’s words that, like Jesus, Eric now is “more
alive than any of us. And he would want you, as his dear friends, to freely
experience that same freedom of life in Jesus Christ. Freedom is not free, but
eternal life is free.”
White has written several books, and in 2002 he published “Making
Peace with Reality: Ordering Your Life in a Chaotic World.” Publicity material
says the book explores these questions: “Are we living with meaning and purpose?
Are we using our time well? Is it possible to live a life without regret?”
With regard to Eric Das, I believe the answer to all three is a clear “yes.”
In a whirlwind life and even through his death, he is fulfilling the Navigators’ goal:
“To know Christ and to make him known.”
Others still are watching.
* * *
Just wondering
* * *
Just wondering if there is any more moving music than “Taps” played slowly on a trumpet.
* * *
Mike Haynes teaches journalism at Amarillo College. He can be reached at AC,
the Amarillo Globe-News or Go to for other recent columns.