Father Soldier Son (directed by Leslye Davis and Catrin Einhorn) is a new Netflix Original Documentary telling the unbelievable story of Brian Eisch, a single father of two young sons and a Platoon Sergeant in the US military. Showing more than 10 years of footage, we follow this family as they go through the lowest and highest points in their lives.
The early footage of Brian’s children, Isaac and Joey, is very touching. You can see the love and pride they have for their father. They miss him when he’s deployed but seem to understand the importance of what their father is doing. Still, the scene where Brian had to leave again for another 6 month stretch–and watching their goodbyes–was heartbreaking.
Despite their understanding, Isaac and Joey were always concerned for their father. Seeing such young children talking about the weight on their shoulders when their father is deployed (or hearing one say “you shot my Dad so I kill you”) is difficult to watch. Brian states that he was doing ‘what Uncle Sam asked him to do’, but what is everybody asking of his sons? Only Brian is in the military, yet so many others are personally affected by it. Isaac and Joey had to make sacrifices as well.
Brian takes pride in being in the military and seems to prefer being on active duty, deployed, and fighting for his country. It is part of who he is. But after a traumatic injury, he can no longer do what he loves. It’s like he loses his identity and doesn’t know who he is or what to do any longer.
We see a fascinating shift in the family after Brian’s injury. The seemingly positive Isaac, who wishes to follow in his father’s footsteps, becomes a more introverted teenager who would prefer to go to college than enroll in the army and the more sensitive Joey suddenly now becomes the son who longs to follow in his father’s footsteps. Their opinions on the military change as they get older and they battle with questions of whether or not being in the army is worth what their father is going through.
Brian, losing his identity and dealing with the painful process of an amputation, understandably loses motivation to continue with the difficult healing and learning process. Not only is he dealing with the physical aspects of his new life, but the emotional consequences as well. He becomes withdrawn and stops engaging with the family. His new partner questions whether he had PTSD. Brian felt that he became a burden to the military and was just someone else that they had to take care of.
Father Soldier Son is a fascinating and sobering look into just one of the millions of people who are in the US military alone. These soldiers are not just making sacrifices during the time that they are on active duty, but it is a lifelong commitment. The physical ramifications alone can be immense, but the emotional damage can be a lifelong struggle, not only on the soldiers themselves, but on their family as well. They are making the ultimate sacrifice.
Despite a laundry list of devastation, we witness the Eisch family experience some beautiful life milestones closer to the end of the film. Father Soldier Son brings you along on the Eisch family’s emotional roller coaster.
What I choose to take away from this film are the wise words of Brian Eisch, “Just keeping going. That’s all you can do. And fill your days with more happiness then sadness.”
Father Soldier Son is streaming on Netflix now.