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Skilled Fighter Pilot’s Achievements Can’t Save Him

“Everything that I did was basically driven to be the best, so I could choose the best; be chosen as the best and to get the best.”

Brad has never done anything halfway.  In college, he graduated at the top of his class with two aeronautical degrees and reached his life’s goal becoming an F15 fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. His success was his, and his alone.

“I learned that I could rely on myself,” Brad recalls. “‘I taught myself that, ‘Hey, all you have to do is work very, very hard, outwork anybody and you can be successful.”’

As a pilot, he took self-confidence to another level.

“If I could be the loudest, drunkest, wildest, you know, skirt-chasing, hair-on-fire fighter pilot, I wanted to be the guy that everybody looked up to.”

Brad married and was promoted to chief flight and weapons instructor. Lauded for his flying skills, he exuded confidence--and arrogance--until a routine training mission with another pilot went wrong.

“He ends up crashing into the ocean, perishing instantly,” Brad remembers.

“I gave him some instructions on the radio, unbeknownst to me, that was basically a directed maneuver which was suicidal. You don't have the room to do what I told him to do. It was just unbelievable to me that I had made these mistakes, because they're so fundamentally basic.  I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to think,” Brad remembers. ‘“I was like, ‘How could this possibly happen? Very difficult for me to get my mind around, very difficult.’”

Brad’s shock and disbelief quickly turned to shame and guilt. An investigation followed, and Brad was grounded indefinitely. 

“At that point, what's the point of going on, because you've lost everything. There were many nights that I sat in my room and cried my eyes out and there was more than one occasion that I thought about maybe not waking up the next day.”

There was one flash of hope during this time. After six years of trying and eight miscarriages, Brad and his wife, Carolyn, had a daughter.   

“‘I can remember holding her, going, ‘This is a gift from the almighty’ because there's no way this should have worked,’” Brad recalls. “The most stressful point of our lives ever: I'm being destroyed, my wife is going through things, and lo and behold, we have this beautiful child. I can just remember thinking that I’m going to try to make this the best I can.”

Through years of court battle,  Brad got his record cleared and flight clearance reinstated. He left the Air Force and got a job flying for Fed Ex. His confidence-- and ego-- were back.

“I still wanted to kinda hang on to that where I was successful and where I had some, you know, bones, if you will, so I'd hang onto that life.”

That lifestyle would lead to an affair with his best friend’s wife. Eventually, Carolyn found out.  Brad ended the affair, but it was too late.

“I knew he had lied to me,” Carolyn says. ‘“That's the one thing I said when we got married, ‘just don't ever lie, because when the trust is broken, there's no hope for us.’ I told him I didn't know what I was going to do but, you know, I was just done, and I think he knew by my voice I was really done.”’

As Brad stood alone in an empty house, he says he had an encounter with God.

“It’s just this awakening and you start becoming aware of who you are, what you've done, and how you measure up,” Brad remembers. “I just collapsed to the floor because the weight of all the sin and the weight of the guilt and that knowledge was just so overwhelming. I was never going to measure up. The Lord moved me to a place where he was completely absent. That was terrifying. It was a very clear thought, I’ve never forgotten it; ‘this is what judgment is like.’ Finally, I said, "Please help me." I didn't see anything, but I can remember feeling the presence, something inside of me said ‘be calm.’ At that point I just said, you know, "Thank you" and I gave my heart and said, ‘Would you please, Lord, be my Lord and Savior?’”

Brad called Carolyn and begged her to give him another chance. Although doubtful, she agreed and came home. She says the change in him was undeniable.

“It was like a lightning bolt that hit him,” Carolyn recalls. ‘“I mean, it was a change overnight and it was obvious to me that something was very different about this man. Before, he was very self-centered. If I would have left, it was, ‘I get nothing, it's all his.’ and this time, he said, "You can have everything, I have just been a rotten person, I just hope in time that you will think better of me. And I’m going to prove to you that I’m a different person, that I've changed." I kept waiting for the rug to be pulled out from underneath my feet and it never—it never did. He just kept surprising me, and he was an absolutely changed person.”’

Over time, the trust was restored,  In fact, Carolyn also dedicated her life to Christ. These days, Brad and Carolyn’s marriage is stronger than ever.  Brad lives a life of contentment and surrender to God.

“I come to him as my father, as a child,” Brad says. “I try to remember that I can always come to him. You can't hide from God, he's right there all the time just waiting for you to reach out ’cause he's looking for you. His love will always find you, no matter where you are. There’s nothing you’ve done, nothing you can do, that will separate you from the love of God.”

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