GREENWOOD, S.C. --
Christopher G. Reynolds, Jr. attended a religious service in early 2012 when a church leader called all high school seniors to the front of the room. The church leader, performing an annual tradition, directed Reynolds and his peers to announce their goals following high school graduation in May. Reynolds’ mother and father never expected their son’s answer.
Reynolds, 19, announced his plan to become a U.S. Marine publicly for the first time during service that morning. His answer shocked both his family and friends. His father, Reynolds Sr., said he knew his son had great potential, but he never thought he would go to such an extreme. The veteran said he discussed the military with his son, but he focused primarily on the U.S. Navy because of his 13 years of service. After a discussion following the ceremony, he knew that his son was very serious about his decision.
Reynolds and his father visited a Greenwood, S.C. recruiting office in June 2012 shortly after graduating from Greenwood Christian School. However, they were left speechless following the initial visit with a recruiter. Staff Sgt. Matthew B. McGarvey, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Recruiting Substation Lexington and a former recruiter in Greenwood, informed Reynolds that he would have to lose 45 pounds to enlist and an additional 15 to begin training. This information left Reynolds 60 pounds away from achieving his newfound dream.
“I felt for him,” Reynolds, Sr., said. “He had built up a desire to do it and he worked so hard up until that point. I didn’t feel like he couldn’t do it, but I realized it would be a difficult challenge for him.”
Reynolds faced a problem that he shared with 23.9 million other children and adolescents, according to the American Heart Association. He was obese, weighing approximately 230 pounds. Reynolds said he never worried about his body or weight. He loved good food and had plenty of it around him with limited exercise throughout high school. He assumed he would eventually have to lose some weight, but his assumption was far from reality.
Reynolds was sure it would take him at least a year before he could lose 45 pounds, but his recruiter thought otherwise. McGarvey informed Reynolds about physical training with the enlistees in the Delayed Entry Program. He encouraged Reynolds to attend as many training functions as possible to help him start shedding pounds.
He accepted his recruiter’s invitation, attending physical training sessions throughout each week while working at the local BI-LO supermarket. He was reminded of his goal of becoming a Marine every day he arrived to work because he knew that’s where he would remain if he failed to earn the title. He also altered his diet by eating healthier foods and drinking more water to help support his new exercise regimen.
“At first, I thought the Marines may not be the right thing for me,” Reynolds said. “But the motivation from the recruiters and the enlistees helped me along the way. I would not have reached my goal if it were not for their help.”
Reynolds’ father admits he was not as confident as Staff Sgt. McGarvey. He said his son had difficulty staying committed to a particular goal, such as playing football. He also did not think his son would be able to lose that much weight in such a short amount of time. His son overcame adversity and doubt by losing 45 pounds two months later.
“It was one of the happiest days of my life,” Reynolds said, referring to the moment when Staff Sgt. McGarvey confirmed his qualification to enlist. “I ran around the house yelling. I was so pumped and ready.”
He enlisted in the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program in August 2012, still anxious to lose an additional 15 pounds to become qualified to attend Marine Corps Recruit Training.
Reynolds’ father, who witnessed his son begin to transform while in the DEP, could not help but recognize McGarvey’s support between June and August when his son was ineligible to enlist. He was well aware that his son did not contribute to McGarvey’s mission as a recruiter, especially considering the fact that the odds were against his son from the very beginning.
“I was impressed with Staff Sgt. McGarvey because I have never seen someone take that much interest in my son,” Reynolds, Sr., said. “Any encouragement from Staff Sgt. McGarvey, he took seriously.”
Reynolds continued to lose weight throughout the next five months, losing an additional 15 pounds while gaining muscle mass. He departed for recruit training on Jan. 13 within the established weight standard.
Upon arriving at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., Reynolds developed an even greater understanding for his physical preparation, automatically questioning his decision to enlist.
“What did I get myself in to,” Reynolds said, remembering his first night on the island. “I expected a mental and physical challenge, but I was not aware of how tough it really is. You get to a point where you think you can’t do it, and it really starts to wear you down.”
Reynolds said he found motivation through his fellow recruits. Their motivation helped him to regain commitment in his goal to become a Marine. He overcame the physical and mental challenges of training, graduating on April 12. He earned the title of Marine and lost an additional 15 pounds while at recruit training.
“He left here a boy, and then there was a man standing in front of me,” Reynolds Sr. said, after seeing his son for the first time since he left in January. “This was the first time in his life that he went full force toward what he wanted. We are very proud to see him put forth so much effort to achieve his goal.”
McGarvey said Pfc. Reynolds is an example of a young man who realized his true potential, losing 75 pounds along the way.
Reynolds, who enlisted in the Marine Corps Security Forces (Presidential Support) occupational field, will attend infantry training at Camp Geiger, N.C., followed by security forces training in Chesapeake, Va.