Brian Eisch is no stranger to tragedy. Sargent First Class Brian Eisch was badly wounded by machine gunfire during a deployment to northern Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, and returned home to lose his son, Joey, in a tragic accident.
SFC Brian Eisch was a single father to his two young sons, Joey and Isaac, when he was deployed to Afghanistan and injured. Today, Isaac Eisch is in the U.S. Army and Brian Eisch is living in Wisconsin with his new wife, Maria. In 2020, Eisch is memorializing his son through an annual youth wrestling tournament.
“Father Soldier Son” is a New York Times documentary that debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. It was released on Netflix Friday, July 17, 2020. The documentary follows Eisch and his family for 10 years. The New York Times highlighted the single dad in a 2010 article, “Families Bear Brunt of Deployment Strains.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sgt. 1st Class Brian Eisch Was a Single Dad of 2 Sons, Isaac & Joey Eisch When He Was Wounded in Afghanistan
Sargent First Class Brian Eisch was deployed to Afghanistan as a single father of two young boys, Joey and Isaac. Joey was 8 and Isaac was 12 when their dad was shipped off overseas, according to a 2010 New York Times article, “Families Bear Brunt of Deployment Strains.” Eisch had full custody of the boys after a divorce six years earlier, so his brother, Shawn, volunteered to care for his sons for a year.
Eisch was a senior noncommissioned officer for a reconnaissance and sniper platoon. He left Fort Drum, New York to spend the year in northern Afghanistan while his sons lived with their aunt, uncle and older cousins.
“It’s pretty hard worrying if he’ll come back safe,” Isaac told the New York Times at the time. “I think about it like 10 or more times a day.”
When Eisch said goodbye to his sons before returning to Afghanistan from a leave on his deployment, Isaac asked him why they couldn’t just end the war. He worried about his dad, but expected he would come home safe since he made it through the first half of his deployment.
“He’s halfway through, and he’s going to make it,” Isaac told the New York Times. “With all that training he’s probably not going to get shot. He knows if there’s a red dot on his chest, run. Not toward the enemy. Run, and shoot.”
However, when Eisch saw danger, he ran toward it. He was badly wounded by machine gun fire in northern Afghanistan, went through seven surgeries and eventually had his leg removed.
2. Joey Eisch, Brian Eisch’s Son, Died After He Was Hit by a Truck While Riding His Bicycle
Tragically, Brian Eisch’s son, Joey Eisch, died after he was hit by a truck while riding his bicycle when he was just 12 years old in Osewego, New York. On July 24, 2015, Eisch waved goodbye to his son, telling him to stay off the road. He was taking a 10-minute bike ride when he was hit.
“He’s down at the end of the driveway and I looked at him, and I’m like ‘I love you, buddy. You stay off the beeping road’ and he’s like ‘I know dad, I love you too’ and he waved at me,” Eisch told Spectrum News.
Just a few minutes later, Eisch received a phone call bearing the bad news.
“You need to get to upstate in Syracuse, your son was hit by a truck,'” Brian recalled the caller saying, during an interview with We Are Green Bay. “Joey was essentially brain dead, so 8 hours later we had to take him off life support. Easily trumps losing a leg. There’s no comparison to losing your kid. [I’m] still trying to change it in my head. Still waiting for prankster Joey to walk through the door and go ‘gotcha dad.'”
Joey Eisch would have started 7th grade that fall. He was a member of Sandy Creek Youth Wrestling, Sandy Creek Little League, and Good Old Boy’s Junior Fishing Club, according to his obituary. He was also a volunteer for the New York B.A.S.S. Nation.
“Joey was very good at being a goofball and making people laugh,” his obituary said.
Brian Eisch now remembers his son every year through the Joey Eisch Memorial Youth Wrestling Tournament. The most recent event was held February 2, 2020. Eisch and his family visited his son’s grave on their way to the 2020 tournament.
“Brings our family so much happiness knowing that Sandy Creek still honors our beloved Joey with a very well ran tournament,” he wrote on Facebook.
3. SFC Brian Eisch Had His Leg Amputated 4 Years After He Was Injured by Machine Gun Fire in Afghanistan
Sgt. 1st Class Brian Eisch was involved with Afghan police officers in a major offensive into a Taliban stronghold south of Kunduz city when he saw a rocket-propelled grenade explode into a group of police officers. The officers scattered except one man, who was left writhing in pain in the field. Eisch ordered his medic to move their armored truck to block the injured man from gunfire, and got out, according to The New York Times.
“I just reacted,” he told The New York Times. “I seen a guy hurt and nobody was helping him, so I went out there.”
He was applying tourniquets to the injured officer when he heard machine gunfire and felt “a chainsaw ripping through my legs,” he said. He was hit twice in the left leg and once in the right leg.
He crawled back to the truck, tightened his own tourniquets and was evacuated by a helicopter.
Eisch had a series of surgeries, and eventually had his leg amputated four years after his injury, he told Bassmaster.
“On the seventh surgery, they took it off,” he said.
4.Sargent First Class Brian Eisch Was Divorced in 2004 & Won Custody of Both His Sons
Sgt. First Class Brian Eisch was divorced in 2004 when his sons, Joey and Isaac, were very young. He took his older son, Isaac, with him to an Army post in Germany, while Joey stayed home with his mother in Wisconsin. Eisch returned home to the states in 2007, and became worried that his ex-wife was neglecting his younger son. He petitioned the courts for full custody, and won custody of both his sons, according to The New York Times.
The young boys felt the burden of their dad’s time in the service, The New York Times reported in the 2010 article, “Families Bear Brunt of Deployment Strains.” At the time, Isaac had lived in five states and Germany with his father, and his younger brother, Joey, had lived in three of those.
“I don’t try to get too attached to my friends because I move around a lot,” Isaac told The New York Times. “When I leave, it’s like, hard.”
Eisch felt the strain the deployment would put on his boys, but after 17 years in the U.S. Army with no deployments, he didn’t question the orders when they came within a few months of moving to Fort Drum. Still, he saw the pressure the boys were feeling.
“I question myself every day if I’m doing the right thing for my kids,” he said. “I’m trying to do my duty to my country and deploy, and do what Uncle Sam asks me to do. But what’s everybody asking my boys to do?”
5. Now, Brian Eisch Is Remarried, Retired from the U.S. Army & Is a Bass Fisherman While His Son Isaac Joined the Army
In 2020, Brian Eisch is living with his wife, Maria Eisch, and their young son, Jaxon. Brian and Maria Eisch were married May 30, 2015. He called Maria his “angel” in a 2015 interview with Bassmaster.
“She is amazing, she fully supports my passion of tournament fishing. She packs my lunch, we camp out for the tournaments and she is at the docks waiting for me at every event,” he said.
Eisch uses bass fishing as a form of therapy and a hobby to cope with the loss of his son. Today, Eisch is living back in Wisconsin with his wife and Jaxon, and participates in fishing tournaments.
Eisch was retired from the U.S. Army in 2012.
Now, Brian Eisch’s son, Isaac Eisch, is following in his dad’s footsteps and joined the U.S. Army.
Today, Brian Eisch uses a prosthetic leg, which helps his mobility.
“Got home late last night and so happy with this leg,” he wrote on Facebook. “Loving it.”