Captain Gaffaney, Hero
What Went Down
In the aftermath of the Fort Hood Massacre, the conversation has focused on the police officers who intervened to stop Hasan. However, a new hero emerges from the story, as seen in USA Today:
“Investigators are still sorting out the actions of Capt. John Gaffaney, 56, a psychiatric nurse. But according to varying eyewitness accounts, Gaffaney either picked up a chair and threw it at Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, the accused killer, or physically rushed him from across the room.
Army Maj. Gen. Lie-Ping Chang, commander of the reserve force to which Gaffaney belonged, said that two eyewitnesses recounted how the reservist threw a folding chair and “tried to knock (Hasan) down or knock his gun down.” Chang included this account in an essay submitted to USA TODAY.
Army Reserve Col. Kathy Platoni, a clinical psychologist who served with Gaffaney, said she was told that he rushed Hasan to within inches before being shot several times.”
Captain Gaffaney died from his wounds. Several soldiers thanked Capt, Gaffaney for saving their lives. Even though he failed to disarm Hasan, Capt. Gaffaney’s actions distracted the killer and allowed his fellow soldiers to escape.
1. Learn to Use a Chair as a Weapon. A chair is a realistic impromptu weapon, and you should be prepared to use one and to defend against one. In Tony Jaa’s movie Ong Bak you can see a Thai boxing counter to the chair swung as a weapon.
To use the chair, grab the front edge of the seat and the top of the backrest. Jab at the opponent with the legs. If he grabs the legs, push forward to take him off balance. Throw low line kicks, so the opponent must contend with thrusts up high and kicks down low at the same time.
A folding chair can be collapsed and used like in the previous section, or swung one-handed in larga mano (long range) fashion.
2. Winning Isn’t the Same as Surviving. A great disservice is done in the martial arts when we create the illusion of invincibility. At the end of the day, all of us are human and therefore mortal. Breathless ad copy such as “DROP ANY ATTACKER IN SECONDS!!!” encourages would-be martial artists to indulge themselves in fantasy.
The fantasy martial artist (and we are all guilty of this) imagines that winning means annihilating an opponent and emerging without a scratch or having to sweat. But sometimes winning and surviving exacts a terrible price. Sometimes winning means not surviving at all. The real warrior prepares himself for this eventuality.
Although Capt. Gaffaney was killed, he still “won.” There is no magic formula against a madman with a gun. His courageous actions saved others’ lives.
3. I Am Thankful for Heroes in the US Army. It’s Thanksgiving, and I am grateful for all of the heroes in the US Army who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms and frankly, the luxurious lifestyle that I enjoy. My son-in-law is in Afghanistan right now, and I pray he is never confronted with the same choice that Capt. Gaffaney had to make.