An Act of Chivalry

Today I downloaded a new bestseller on my kindle about the Second World War. A Higher Call by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander is an incredible true story of the fraternal bond of warriors across the battle lines. Part of it reads as a war memoir as well as a tale of mutual humanity. In the first few chapters the reader learns about The lives of then 2nd Lt. Charles Brown of West Virginia and Oberleutnant (Senior Lieutenant) Franz Stigler of Bavaria, and how they were forever changed one December day in 1943.

In the course of the story Charles “Charlie” Brown struggles to bring his bomber back from his first mission over the skies of Germany. On his crews attempt to destroy the German war production complex in Bremen, their plane was hit by heavy anti-aircraft fire on their approach. Almost immediately, as they dropped out of formation, they were set upon by 15 enemy fighters. With his tail gunner dead, four wounded and two engines dying, Brown had no choice but to dive below cloud cover.

When he struggled for altitude, he noticed an ME 109 next to his cockpit. The enemy plane had a large kill Talley on its tail, signifying an ace pilot. The veteran enemy ace was Franz Stigler, part of a dwindling number of German pilots from the start of the war. As Brown’s plane flew over the treetops it caught the attention of Stigler, who signaled his crew chief to ready his plane. As he climbed in pursuit he thought of personal glory as he was a few points shy of earning the Knights Cross, Germany’s wartime Medal Of Honor. He also thought of revenge for the death of his brother and fellow pilot August, killed earlier in the war as well as taking down one of the bombers responsible for targeting his home country. As Stigler closed in and peered over his gun sights he noticed the rear gunner of the enemy plane was dead.

Staying his hand from the trigger, he flew beside the American plane. He could see the fuselage peeled away by Flak guns, the machine guns were knocked out and the crew tending to their wounded crew mates stared at his plane in sheer terror. Upon reaching the cockpit, Lt. Brown saw his plane whose eyes were also wide in shock and disbelief. Stigler matched his planes speed and weighed of his options. His need for vengeance and honor would be satisfied upon destroying the bomber. Yet, he also thought of his families ancestry as he was descended from an old knighthood, holding honor above other virtues. He also aspired to become a Catholic priest before the war. The thought of treason entered his mind as a German servicemen who spared the life of an enemy would face execution. He finally remembered his old mentor, Ace pilot Gustav Roedel, telling the then inexperienced Stigler in 1939 that to shoot a defenseless pilot would be murder.

After deciding to spare his enemy, Stigler escorted Brown’s plane. He acted as a shield so his comrades manning Flak guns wouldn’t shoot. When the bomber reached the north sea, he saluted and dove out of sight. The respective pilots kept their silence. Stigler out of fear of being informed upon and executed by the Gestapo. Brown was told by his Wing Commander to stay silent for fear of spreading positive propaganda about the enemy.

After decades the two found one another via an ad for a military aviators gathering. The two met in florida in 1990 and began a friendship that lasted until 2008, when they died months apart from each other. In their respective obituaries they referred to each other as their brother.

This book is an amazing example of wartime endurance and the triumph of the human spirit. It certainly should share book space with Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. Enjoy it, you certainly will.


End Of Watch

This past weekend I had time to sit down and see End of Watch, a recently released Police thriller/documentary about Officers that work for the LAPD. Despite it being a Hollywood attempt to glamorize police work through action movies there is also a fair degree of realism in this film.

Unlike Street Kings or Training Day, Director David Ayer decides to do away with the crooked detective motif. Instead the viewer is put in the drivers seat of the average patrolman. We meet Officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena). Mike, a family man with a newborn daughter, and Brian, A former Marine looking to settle down. The footage is almost entirely shot from go-pro cameras mounted on the dashboard to Brian’s hand held camera. The actors performing the roles have a distinctly fraternal on screen partnership that is both well nuanced and realistic. Together they give an insight into the average day of a police officer ranging from responding to a domestic violence case, saving two children from a burning building, and discovering a house full of illegal immigrants run by a drug cartel. Despite the sub-plot of the two officers being put on a drug hit, the rest of the film is as realistic as it gets.

End Of Watch is an interesting movie that provides insight to the challenges and life that lawmen lead. The hand held approach to the filming leaves it both edgy and spur of the moment.

Krav Maga: The Art of Combat

A friend of mine once said that all martial arts are similar and can be placed into several categories. Some like Akido are needed purely for self-defense and exist to redirect an opponents attacks. Muay Thai, Jui-Jitsu, Karate and Shaolin Kung-Fu are designed to go on the attack utilizing fluid, acrobatic movements. There is a special type of martial art called the hybrid or mixed martial arts. This category is reflective of real-world fight scenarios and are part of most law enforcement and military organizations across the world. One of the more famous examples is Krav Maga, the standard combative technique for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

In the 1930’s the Jewish quarter of Bratislava, in modern day Slovakia was consistently under attack by Right-Wing gangs conducting pogroms. A boxing and wrestling teacher named Imi Lichtenfeld came before his synagogue and offered to train the neighborhoods young men into a self-defense league. Utilizing the human body’s natural reaction to fighting and creating a series of quick counterattacks. The young men were able to fight back against street thugs and kept their community safe. Until the rise of Hitler and the German conquest of Europe. Upon fleeing his home country, Lichtenfeld vowed to take his art with him to the British Mandate of Palestine, in what is now modern day Israel.

As a combat instructor Lichtenfeld’s art was valued by members of the Hagganah, the Jewish underground, and later the IDF. The success of the program caught on with several European police and military agencies and even America’s FBI and CIA began to train their personnel in it. To this day Krav Maga has become a worldwide phenomenon, offering the best self-defense system. The ease of learning this art is measured by the ability to protect oneself in a dangerous situation, ranging from an unarmed opponent to a brawl and even and armed mugging. Please view the attached video to see it in action.

The Age of Military Robotics

Advanced methods of waging war seem to progress with the advancement of technology. When modern rockets were first pioneered in the 1920’s by Professor Goddard, they were designed to measure altitude, climate and physics. This initial curiosity lead to the golden age of space exploration by America and the Soviet Union in the 1960’s. The Space Race was, however, preceded by military scientists using this technology as a weapon. Notably by Werner Von Braun and the German military during World War Two as they launched the first tactical Cruise and Ballistic missiles against London and other cities in England. The advancements of robotics seem to be following the same path.

The most famous of drones is the RQ-1 Predator, a former surveillance drone that is now used as a Rocket-firing weapons platform against Taliban forces in Afghanistan. While effective as a military weapon it has also invited controversy. Doubts range from how a pilot remotely controlling such a machine cannot utilize their experience and instincts, to being unable to make judgment calls in the field. There is a fear now that drones will no longer need a military serviceman to operate them. The new X-47B will include a new A.I. system that will allow it to make independent decisions free of a command structure. While this new innovation will supposedly cut down on pilot error and other issues regarding performance, there is a small danger of the system becoming compromised by hackers or of the drone itself becoming a self-aware weapon.

The Next Generation of Drone Warfare

A Cure For AIDS

Finally some good news about humanity’s war with HIV/AIDS. Doctors in Mississippi report that an infant born with the disease has been ‘cured’ after drug treatments, 30 hours after birth. For the first time in our history we wont have to deal with a generation that has AIDS. There wont be anymore candlelight vigils, no benefit concerts, no more families standing by waiting to hear grim news from a doctor. This could be our turning point in our struggle.


About four years ago I made a life changing decision. It was the summer of 2009, my graduation year. The idea of committing to a national service program was born from a distinct need to push myself past my limits and to explore a bit of America. After a long search through several programs I came across AmeriCorps NCCC. It was perfect. A 10 month long service term for 18-24 year old young people, the opportunity to serve in diverse settings across the U.S. and, best of all, making a direct impact for my fellow Americans.

After getting a call from Washington D.C. that July from AmeriCorps offices, I set out to Vicksburg, Mississippi. I was amazed at how the landscape changed from the Carolina foothills to the swamps of the Deep South. I arrived after three days on the road, often driving 12 straight hours to get through the wilderness. Arriving in town was an experience in itself. The downtown area looked like it hadn’t changed since the 1860’s. I sat by a blues cafe on the waterfront, watching barges laden with goods make their way up the Mississippi river. I took a tour of the National military park just off the interstate where General Grant made his march east towards Virginia. The most amazing sight was the Al-Saints school, the headquarters of AmeriCorps NCCC’s Southern Region Campus.

On each campus one may find an amazing cross section of people from diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. What struck me, as the greatest factor in the organization’s success, is how well so many different people can operate together in the most adverse conditions.

During my service, I learned a great deal from living with nine other strangers. All of us recognized that we were different and came to accept each other’s quirks and personality traits. We ended the year with, for lack of a better word, a second family. During work and off-hours we learned individual integrity, team effort, flexibility and reliance on each other in whatever environment we were positioned. Our work took us from rebuilding homes on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, to building trails in West Virginia and culminated in assisting flood victims in Nashville, Tennessee. Even to this day I would enjoy having that experience again.