Former Air Force Major Brad Eychner has no illusions about his important role as a military spouse while his wife, Jonelle, is deployed to Afghanistan.
After leaving the Air Force in 2007 to explore a career in corporate America, Eychner landed in a role he didn’t initially expect, but one he has grown to love — the job of raising their two boys, Aiden and Emmett, as a stay-at-home dad.
“I tell them she’s off fighting the bad guys, and that’s what she tells them when she’s here, that she’s off fighting the bad guys,” said Eychner. “She is the strongest person I’ve ever met in my entire life, and she’s my hero - she’s my champion. I’ll do everything I can to support them and to support her while she does it - without question.”
Part 1: Brad’s Journey to Becoming a Military Spouse
Becoming a military spouse was never part of his plan, but once that was the determined plan – he embraced it with both arms.
“I didn’t have an identity any longer,” said former Air Force Major Brad Eychner after he voluntarily separated from the military. “I was an air traffic controller, I was an airfield operations officer – I was Maj. Eychner, here we go – and then I was just Brad.”
Part 2: How He Explains Mom’s Service to His Boys
Deployments become exponentially more difficult once kids are old enough to know where their mother or father is at and what they are doing.
“When your son wakes up in the middle of the night having a nightmare that mom is dead while she’d deployed – those are the moments you wish you could just roll over and tap her on the shoulder to say, ‘hey hon, he needs a hug right now,’ and you don’t have that,” said Eychner. “So trying to be that comfort factor are those moments when I’m like, 'I wish you were here right now,’ just to quell that immediate fear – and I can’t. I can just give them the love that she would and hope that’s sufficient.”
Part 3: Adjusting to a New Normal
Coming back home can be just as difficult as leaving.
“Every single time that reintegration has to take place,” said Eychner, “and it’s incredibly challenging.”
Watch to learn what tricks the Eychner family employs to bring their family back together after every deployment.
Part 4: How the USO Helps His Family
Being able to stop at an airport USO location and going in to grab a Coke and to grab a snack – to sit down and relax – is just one way the Eychners have used the USO’s services. Watch to learn what else the Eychner family found inside the USO that keeps them connected.
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