On Veteran's Day 2011, WKAR brought you a story about Brad Eifert, a former Army soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Two years ago, Eifert drew police into a standoff near his Okemos home after he fired his pistol several times. Instead of prison, a judge ordered therapy for Eifert. After receiving treatment in Rochester, N.Y., Eifert appeared to be making good progress.
But on Sept. 4, Brad Eifert was found dead in a Lansing Township motel. He was 37.
The following story was originally aired on Veteran's Day, 2011.
In August 2010, Brad Eifert was a man living on the brink. He'd been an Army staff sergeant and served in Iraq. He'd been discharged four years earlier. But in his mind, Eifert was consumed with hopelessness and guilt.
The night of August 9, he called Army supervisors and said he wanted to go to the hospital. They called 911. Authorities found him armed and shooting indiscriminately. He spent two and a half hours in the woods while police held him at bay. Dropping his pistol, Eifert finally ran into the open, yelling "Shoot me. Shoot me." He was tasered, taken into custody and charged with five counts of assault with intent to murder.
But during his seven months in jail, Eifert's predicament improved. His attorney successfully got his case transferred to veterans court. Key law officials began to learn more about the man. What's more, they felt compassionate.
Today, Brad Eifert can talk about his dramatic progress.
"I'm definitely thinking more clearly," he says. "I've let a lot of stuff go. I mean, nothing ever goes away and you always think in your head you want to be normal again, but you've got to find a way to live normally with some of those demons that you have in your past."
He says counseling is helping him to finally process the stress of his infantry experience. There was one mind-bending tragedy that wouldn't let go. Eifert encountered what he and his squad identified as insurgents. He fired, then made a horrible discovery.
"And then we noticed it was a civilian casualty and it was hard on me," he recalls. "I killed a kid."
After his discharge in 2006, a downward spiral took shape. Often irritated and depressed, he suffered nightmares, drank heavily and attempted suicide. All this led up to the confrontation with the police.
Fifteen months later, Brad Eifert's intense counseling regimen appears to be helping. Like the infantry gunner he was, he likens the dramatic progress he's made recently to a "blitzkrieg."
"There's so much therapy, it's like attacking you from, you know, every angle in your life to get you back in this normal normalcy," he explains. "We videotape our--excuse me, record--ourselves talking about all these events and then we listen to them again. That is what helped a lot. It kinda helps you process what happened and realize that you know, maybe, you know, maybe the choices you make aren't always perfect and things happen. I mean, it's war."
But Eifert says the hardest part is being away from his family. Though she's hundreds of miles away, Eifert credits his wife as a central part of his recovery.
And on this particularly memorable Veteran's Day, 11-11-11, what does Brad Eifert feel?
"I'll always be proud of my service," he says. "I think I did something for my country and I was a part of something larger than myself. And there will always be a part of me that will feel like I somehow failed, you know, because I didn't process it, I guess, (in) the way that the army would consider it normal, I--I wish that I still could have had a career in the military and--I loved it. I mean, it's bittersweet. What can you say? Some things happened."
Brad Eifert says he expects to be home in Okemos by Christmas. Later, the veteran's court will make a ruling on his case. Eventually, he wants to return to college and go to work for the Veterans Administration.
He wants to help others like him come home--emotionally.