A soldier’s Thanksgiving: Brian’s story

From Afghanistan to New York's Oneida Lake, one angler gives thanks for bass tournament fishing this holiday.

“Every time you think you got it bad…”

Dateline:  Give Thanks

“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.”

-Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf

Sometimes, I have to stop and take a breath, during an interview.

A deep breath.

Sometimes, I’m told stories that hit me so emotionally, that my nose starts to run.

And tears.

Sometimes, I’m so spellbound by the story, and the storyteller, that I forget to write things down.

So engrossed.

In a one hour and two minute interview, I asked a total of six short questions, a ratio I think is about right.

The greatest part about writing, is asking.

The greatest part of writing, is listening.

I never learn anything when I’m talking, I learn everything when I’m not.

And I’m listening, haven’t said a word during what at this point in time could be called, “an alleged interview,” ‘cause I’m pretty silent, and I’m the interviewer.

“db, I’m pretty thankful…”

On my computer in front of me, I open a photo sent to me by the person I’m “interviewing.”

“…really thankful, I’ve got it made…”

And on my computer I see Brian Eisch, the guy I’m listening to…

“…got it made…”

…and in the photo he is laying in a hospital bed in Walter Reed Hospital and one of his legs is all shot to pieces…

“…got it made, man.”

… in the next photo, most of that shot up leg is gone, amputated.

And, my nose, begins to run.

“…you can find someone who’s got it worse…”

If only, Thanksgiving, was universal.

If only, Thanksgiving, was every day.

Frankly, I think that was the plan, I think that in the long run, that’s why we are here on this planet in the first place, but I also think we corrupted the whole damn plan.

Blew it up when we started blowing each other up.

How simple it is, to give thanks, how complicated it has become. Who you give thanks to and what you give thanks for, now, inexplicably, can get you killed.

I’m sure the universe, is proud of us. Yep.

So in this backdrop of what we have become, you really need to understand this point, in this backdrop of the madness around us, our THANKSGIVING IS NOT A GIVEN.

That may sound far-fetched but as we carve the turkey in our nice suburban homes, our nice city lofts, our nice farms, our nice ranches, and as we bow our heads and give thanks to whomever it is you give thanks to, there are entire countries of people out there who want to stop us from doing that.

Who want to kill us because we don’t do it their way.

Murderous fools, who want to be king.

So this Thanksgiving, when you have the freedom to thank whomever it is that you want to thank, please take a moment and thank the 1 percent of us who protect the other 99 percent of us, who stand between us, and the kings.

Give thanks to all those who serve in our military, THEY are the ones truly setting your Thanksgiving table.

Give thanks for people like Sergeant First Class (SFC), Brian Eisch.

Brian’s story…

“…all the things you take for granted now…”

“I’m not a hero, db, I was just doing my job.”

All I could do was stare at my laptop keyboard as Brian told me that over the phone, “…really, I was just doing my job.”

As Brian is telling me that my eyes move up from the keyboard, move up to the computer screen, move to the last quote I typed in as he was talking to me, as he is telling me he was just doing his job, this is the exact quote I’m looking at on the screen:

“I told the base surgeons, I’m a single parent with two boys, please don’t take my foot off.”

In his exact words, I’m going to let him tell you about how he was “just doing my job,” you then decide whether he is a hero or not. That’s fair.

Brian’s Story:

“I was in the Kunduz province in Afghanistan, it was Nov. 3, 2010 and I was working with the Afghan Police on a patrol we called, ‘a deliberate clear.’  What that means is we would go into a Taliban village and let the Afghan police lead the way.

“Well because all the roads are mined over there we went through a river to get to the village, doing that took the village by surprise and we came immediately under fire, small arms and RPG’s.

“Because of how it was there we, me and my guys, we were under a ‘No Fire Hold’ which means we had to have direct visual of a Taliban guy shooting at us before we could fire back.

“So we are sitting there under fire, but we don’t have a visual, and it is becoming a heavy firefight, suddenly I see this Taliban in the road, and he puts three shots into the window of our truck, and I’m thinking, ok, lets go, so we return some heavy fire ourselves.

“Up ahead the Afghan police have basically walked into an ambush, they are taking machine gun and RPG fire, and suddenly, they start running away and hiding behind our trucks.

“As I’m sitting in my vehicle I see one of their guys out in a field, he’s been shot and is in need of serious help, so I tell the Afghan police, ‘You have a man down over there you need to go get him,’ and they tell me no, tell me that they aren’t going to go after him, not going to rescue their man down.

“So I went to get him, didn’t even think twice about it, you don’t leave a man behind, you don’t leave an ally behind, so we swung the vehicle around to go get the wounded Afghan guy and then get the hell out of there.

“We put the vehicle between us and the bad guys, and I climb out to grab the guy but when I get there I find that the guy is way too injured to just grab and throw in the vehicle, he was bleeding bad, going to bleed to death right there, so I start to throw a tourniquet on him…

“Then, db, suddenly I hear this snap, snap, snap then my legs start burning then it starts feeling like a chainsaw was hacking my legs, a Taliban sniper with an automatic weapon saw what we were doing, was waiting for us and shot under the vehicle and got me.”

Brain’s story.

“…they started out as blessings first…”

And in that moment, in a dusty field in wherever the damn Kunduz Province in Afghanistan is located, in that moment of the snap, the burning, the chainsaw feeling on his legs, in that moment Brian’s 20 year Army career, basically came to an end.

SFC Brian Eisch, joined the Army in 1992. Airborne Ranger in the infantry.  Graduate of Army schools: Airborne, Air Assault, Rappel Master, Ranger, Drill Sergeant.

Competed in and won five out of six Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) of the year awards.

Inducted into the prestigious Audie Murphy Club.

“db I was hoping to get in 26 years, but…”

But the fire he took saving an Afghan Police Officer’s life, “ripped my legs apart, took one bullet in my right calf, went clear through, the left leg though, took two bullets, ripped my calf off, lost two muscles in the left calf and one muscle was basically dead, only one muscle worked.”

Then, “I never would have made it, me or the Afghan guy, never would have made it if my Medic, Specialist Jared Cripe, didn’t jump out of the vehicle, Jared is the one who saved us both.”

In 2012 SFC Brian Eisch retired as a Master Sergeant.

He was awarded the Purple Heart.

Both Brian, and his Medic Jared, were awarded a Bronze Star for Valor.

“I was in a hospital in Germany, I think it was the German Defense Minister, or somebody, who pinned the Purple Heart on me, when he did he told me, ‘The Afghan’s wouldn’t go get their own man, but an American would, an American would.’”

“…if you got someone who loves you…”

“db, I’ve heard the Afghan guy is very thankful.”

“What’s his name?”

“Don’t know.”


“I had no idea who he was, still really don’t, I just saw an injured guy and I just went to go get him, didn’t give it much thought.”

Since that moment in an Afghan field Brian has had six surgeries to repair his left leg.

“On the seventh surgery, they took it off.”

Right now, “I’m on my third leg, by Thanksgiving I should have my fourth leg, you work your way through the prosthesis until you get into your permanent one.”

Never once while Brian talks do I ever sense a moment of regret, a moment of Brian feeling sorry for himself.

I’m a wreck, Brian almost starts comforting me.

“When I was in Afghanistan I was working on buying a new Bass Cat boat, but then, you know, I got shot, and everything changed, you know…”

For a moment, just a fraction of a second, I felt his guard go down, for a moment I wasn’t talking to a Master Sergeant Retired, I was suddenly talking to…Brian.

“So I had insurance, Traumatic Event Coverage (something like that I’m not real sure what he said, I was still somewhat of a wreck) and I got $25,000 so I used that money to go out and buy myself a used truck, and db, I bought myself a used bass boat.”

And, “Thank God for B.A.S.S. tournament fishing.”

“…and a steady job that puts food on the table…”

Brian retired to Sandy Creek, N.Y., and joined the Salt City Bassmasters club of Syracuse, N.Y.

Brian’s Story.

“I really miss the Army, never thought my career would end like it did, I was real, I mean REAL competitive in the military but now I can translate my military competitiveness to bass fishing. My goal is to be a professional bass angler.

“In the beginning my fellow club members chuckled at my enthusiasm, they said I was the most enthusiastic loser ever. I practiced and practiced but found myself placing always last, or next to last place.

“By the end of my first season I had a third-place finish and a first, a FIRST.  When the Elites came to Oneida Lake I volunteered as a camera boat and while out on the water I took notes.

“I fish almost every day that the water isn’t hard (ice). In the winter in my garage I stand on buckets and practice flipping into another bucket to stay fresh.

“As you can imagine I am a goal oriented guy, my short term goal is to make the New York state team, then, finances willing, I hope to move up and fish the Bassmaster Opens.

“Since having it amputated I have fished three tournaments, I do it without help, I will fish the back of the boat and I will do it as anyone else would, that’s only fair, trouble was, when I fished it without the leg on I had to do it sitting down all the time and every time I set the hook hard on a fish I would spin around in the chair because I didn’t have the stability, sort of funny actually, but I lost a bunch of fish as I was spinning.”

On May 30, 2015, Brian will marry, “my angel,” Maria. Brian’s two children, Joey and Issac will blend in with Maria’s children, “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.”

Recently, “We both decided to buy a small bait company, Tricky Phish, a soft plastic bait company to see if we can make a go out of that in our basement. I have a good retirement from the military, but, you know, but…”

“…if you’re strong and able…”

Know where I stand on the word, “Hero.”

I believe a true “hero” is a person who puts YOUR life above his/her life.

I believe a true “hero” is a person who will save us, from ourselves.

On this planet every living creature will run from fire, will run from flames, yet there are those among us who will run into the flames to save our butts.

True heroes in my book.

To me it is very simple to know who a hero is, they are the people running into what we are running away from.

Brian’s Story, is one of a hero.

Master Sergeant, Brian Eisch (ret), in my book, hope in your book as well, is a card carrying…hero.

Listen to what he told me when I told him I thought he was a hero: “No way, I’m not a hero, I was just doing my job.”

Hero speak.

“Brian, what are you thankful for, man.”

“db, I’m so thankful, I’ve got it made.”

Brian’s Story.

“When people see me, see me in a wheelchair or with a fake leg on they always thank me, and I’m grateful for that, but don’t thank me because you feel sorry for me because I don’t feel sorry for me, thank me, thank all of us who served our country, thank us for serving our country, your country. That’s the important part.

“You know, whenever I see a Vietnam Vet I thank them, please tell the people out there that we have to play catch-up with the Vietnam Vets, they were treated like crap when they came back, we can never make that up to them, but do all you can to say ‘Thank You’ to them and hope it helps some.

“Don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think all of us who serve do it for, or expect to be thanked for serving. We do it because we love and want to protect America, it is our honor, our duty to do it, as it was the duty of all those who came before us.

“But, I have to tell you there is not a soldier on this planet who doesn’t have a smile on his face when he gets thanked.”

I believe that the foolish Kings who want to conquer us, have no chance.

I believe that the foolish Kings have NO IDEA what they are up against.

I believe that because of Master Sergeant, Brian Eisch (ret), and all those like him out there who not only will rescue us, but who will rescue all those left behind.

No matter who they are.

Give thanks this holiday, and be proud.

Give special thanks for the heroes amongst us.

For it is they, who ultimately give us this holiday.

For it is they, who will be the ones who save us from each other.

For it is they, where freedom begins.

And for all of them, this, and every Thanksgiving…

…I give thanks.

“…man, be grateful.”

Be Grateful

The Farm, Inc.

Happy Thanksgiving,

db & family

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

-Winston S. Churchill