The man who talks about keeping things "even-keel" and "flat-line" had to feel the emotion.
He traveled to the Middle East as part of the USO-NFL coaches tour to boost the morale of U.S. Soldiers serving overseas. Turned out, Brad Childress got quite a surprise when he arrived in Afghanistan about a month ago – a face-to-face meeting with his son, Andrew, who was deployed to the Middle East earlier this year after joining the Marine Corps late last year.
Brad Childress appeared on KFAN radio Thursday afternoon and talked about his trip to Afghanistan, where his son Andrew has been serving in the Marine Corps.
Childress and a few other NFL head coaches – including Childress' former boss with the Philadelphia Eagles, Andy Reid – were part of the USO-NFL tour overseas.
The coaches flew into Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany but were delayed there overnight when their cargo plane hit a bird shortly after takeoff on the way to Afghanistan. They had to return to base and the plane underwent tests. That delayed Childress' surprise meeting with Andrew, but Brad didn't know that meeting was about to happen anyway.
Andrew did, and he wasn't happy about the delay, according to his dad. But as the coach was going through the line greeting soldiers after his arrival in Afghanistan, he came upon what he thought was just another face in the crowd that he didn't recognize. Andrew was wearing sunglasses and sporting a mustache.
"I'm looking him right in the eye and saying, ‘Hi, I'm Brad Childress.' … He says to me, ‘No, how you doin'?' He's got kind of a cheesy-looking Adolph Hitler mustache. He had sunglasses on. He smelled like a goat," Brad said
It didn't matter how he smelled. This was a reunion between father and a son that was off to war. Andrew's words led to his father recognizing him and an emotional, gripping embrace between the two.
"I'm proud to death of him, but I'm scared to death for him," Brad said. "When you get a little closer to it, you realize how terrifying it's got a chance to be."
What struck Brad during his visit to the Middle East was the variety of men and women voluntarily serving their country without question.
"They have a mission and they intend to win the hearts and minds of those people," Brad said.
The pilot that carried the coaches from Germany to Afghanistan told Brad that everyone should have an opportunity to see the work being done and the war being fought. With or without his reunion with Andrew, Brad would have appreciated his trip to visit soldiers, but there is no question the reunion was a big bonus … and a surprise to Brad, whose wife Dru-Ann knew about the plan but kept it a secret from her husband.
Following the embrace, father and son (and Reid) spent a late night catching up on what Childress termed a fairly safe Air Force base.
"It was extremely emotional. It was great. A great event," Brad said. "I'm glad I was able to be there and be part of it with him."
(The full audio of Childress' hour-long interview on KFAN is podcasted on the radio station's web site right here.)
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Childress recounts reunion with Marine son
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