CPT David Michael Eckard, USAF (Ret.), 72, of Charleston, SC, died at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center on December 12, 2022, surrounded by family, after a lengthy and courageous battle with multiple sclerosis. Born in Cumberland, Maryland on February 4, 1950, to Oliver and Simone (Troughton) Eckard, David is survived by his loving wife of 49 years, Debra (Sheffield), their three children Michael (Allison Ross), Adam, and Mary Ashley, his older brother Bruce (Paula Shields), his younger sister Giselle Harrah (Roger Harrah), as well as his cherished grandchildren Oliver (8) and Elizabeth (6). By those who knew him best, David will always be remembered as a man truly devoted to God, family, and country.
After proudly serving in World War II and retiring from the United States Air Force, David’s father brought his young family to Conway, SC. David, the middle of three children, loved South Carolina, adored his parents, and relished being a varsity football standout at Conway High School. Following graduation from Conway High School, David was honored with a prestigious Congressional nomination to the United States Air Force Academy. David graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1972 and was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. David was then selected to attend flight training at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. There, he was introduced to the love of his life, Debra, and by all accounts, was a gregarious student-pilot who found learning to fly exhilarating. In Willacoochee, GA on October 6, 1973, David married Debra, and in 2023, the two would have marked their 50th wedding anniversary.
Together, David and Debra embraced military life while he flew KC-135 Stratotankers and grew their family. They called many places “home,” including Langley A.F.B. in Virginia, Fairchild A.F.B. in Washington, Sheppard A.F.B in Texas, and Grissom A.F.B. in Indiana. David had a true love for aviation and served as a pilot until he was no longer able to fly due to medical issues.
Thereafter, David and his family were stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. There, as the USAF Chief of Airfield Management, David liaised with Turkey’s general command and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on matters concerning aircraft facilities at the base, quickly gaining the trust and respect of both the Turkish military leadership and the U.S. Airmen under his command. Due to his exceptional performance, the NATO Tactical Evaluation Team presented him with the highest inspection rating ever earned at Incirlik at that time. The next year, in 1990, David was assigned to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. As a command post controller for the 33rd Fighter Wing, he directed the unit’s aircraft response to Desert Storm and natural disasters.
Among the various decorations and awards given during his military career, David received the Meritorious Service Medal, the USAF Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Presidential Unit Citation, the USAF Outstanding Unit Award with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the National Defense Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the USAF Overseas Short Tour Ribbon, the USAF Overseas Long Tour Ribbon, the USAF Longevity Service Award Ribbon with five Oak Leaf Clusters, the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, and the USAF Training Ribbon. On October 19, 1992, at the rank of Captain, David medically retired from the Air Force.
In addition to his love of the Air Force and flying, David was a prodigious student and valued higher education. In 1977, he earned his first master’s degree in human resources management from Gonzaga University. He taught human resource management and organizational theory as an adjunct professor at Troy State University and University College in Fort Walton Beach. David also served as a substitute secondary school teacher at multiple schools. After returning home to South Carolina, in 1995, David earned a second master’s degree in Health and Administration Policy from the Medical University of South Carolina.
By the time he returned to South Carolina, multiple sclerosis had significantly altered David’s life. Even as the disease progressed, he stoically made whatever adjustments were necessary to adapt to its relentless progression and to be present and engaged with his family. While multiple sclerosis won the battle against his body, the disease never won the battle against his spirit. Despite David’s significant medical challenges, his friends and family can attest that David never complained, and he faced each adversity with courage and resolve. David upheld the most illustrative example of bravery in the face of adversity; a life well lived.
Despite his many military accomplishments and various academic achievements, nowhere did David find greater satisfaction than as a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He was a loyal and dedicated family man to the core. He cared for his family with humility, grace, and steadfast love. His family was David’s most extraordinary achievement and his single greatest joy.
A funeral service will take place on Friday, December 16, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. at Old Saint Andrew’s Parish Church located at 2604 Ashley River Road, Charleston, South Carolina. Following the funeral service, David will be laid to rest with military honors at the Old Saint Andrew’s Parish Church cemetery. The family requests those who wish to express sympathy to consider making a donation to the Air Force Academy Foundation or the National MS Society.
Arrangements by J. Henry Stuhr, Inc. West Ashley Chapel.