The Real Superheroes


The Real Superheroes

 By George Demetriou

     We have great admiration and respect for the United States Marine Corps especially in light of how some former Marines performed during violent confrontations.  Not only battles in some far off land, but violent confrontations right here in these United States.  Ok, one was in Costa Rica.

     There are nine incidents listed below where former Marines have confronted violent humans and one who confronted a large wild animal and have not only survived the encounter, but "won" the encounter.   "Winning"  in this case means stopping a violent act in progress and being able to walk away when it’s over.

     Consider the following:

*  May/06, Atlanta, Georgia-Former Marine, Thomas Autry,  was walking home work when he was chased, menaced and assaulted by a gang of teenage armed robbers.  The robbery team was wanted before they had chosen Autry as their next victim.  The robbers were armed with a shotgun, a pistol and brass knuckles.  Autry could not outrun his attackers so he pulled out a pocket knife and fought for his life.  Autry actually pulled off a technique no self-respecting martial arts instructor would ever recommend–he kicked the shotgun out of the hand of one gunmen.  Two attackers, including a female, grabbed and struck Autry.  Autry stabbed them.  The girl died of her wound at the hospital.  Autry’s actions caused the gang to flee. 

*  August/06, Sandy, Utah-Former Marine Hand to hand combat instructor James Sjostrum stopped a man who stole a carton of cigarettes from a convenience store.  The thief was confronted outside the store by a female clerk.  The thief punched the woman in the face knocking her down then stood over her and continued to punch her.  Sjostrum was in the store and witnessed the entire event.  The thief tried assaulting Sjostrum when Sjostrum intervened.  Sjostrum slammed the man to the ground and held him for the police.  Sjostrum is a kettlebell instructor.   Hand to hand combat instructor and kettlebell user…talk about the wrong guy to disturb!

*  February/07, Limon, Costa Rica-Former unidentified, 70 year old Marine is on a bus in Costa Rica with other tourists when three robbers, one with a gun and one with a knife begin ordering passengers off the bus.  One passenger had a gun put to her head.  While the tourists were exiting the bus, witnesses reported, the former Marine grabbed the gunman in a headlock.   The "headlock" must have been applied a bit south of the head, in our opinion, because the gunman suffered a broken collar bone and died of asphyxiation. 

*  May/07, Franconia, New Hampshire-Former Marine, Gregory W. Floyd, witnessed the shooting and murder of a police officer.  Floyd, 49, drove his SUV between the shooter and the downed officer, grabbed the officer’s firearm, approached the murderer and commanded him to drop his weapon.  Floyd shot and killed the officer’s murderer when his commands were ignored.

*  June/07, a banner month and year for former Marines, with three incidents:

   Helen, Georgia, former Marine, Chris Everhart, was camping with his family when a black bear entered his camp area and approached his young son.  Everhart grabbed the closest hard object, a piece of fire wood, a hurled it at the bear.  The fire wood struck the bear in the head and killed it.

  Grand Rapids, Michigan, former Marine, Bill Barnes, was scratching off a lottery ticket when he felt a hand in his pocket.  The 72 year old former Golden Gloves boxer pummeled the pick pocket and held him for the police.

  Plantation, FL, former Marine, John Lovell, 71, was eating inside a Subway Restaurant when two armed thugs entered the establishment and announced a holdup.  The two robbers attempted to shove Lovell into the bathroom when Lovell drew a licensed, concealed pistol and shot them.  One was killed and the other was found wounded and arrested.

*  July/07, Decatur, GA, former Marine, Timothy Armstead, was in in his bank attempting to resolve a problem with his account when a man walked up to a teller and announced a robbery.  The bank robber yelled about having a bomb.   Armstead ran up to the robber, tackled him and held him for the police.

*  March/08-An 84 year old, unidentified former Marine was approached by a teenage boy armed with a knife.  The teen robber told the former Marine to give up his wallet.  The former Marine told the boy that he was a veteran of two wars and he should get away.  The teen robber failed to take the good advice offered by the old vet.  The former Marine set his groceries down, kicked the robber in the groin, picked up his groceries, went home and called the police.

    All nine incidents had common details.  In every incident the former Marines made decisions early enough to take control of the situation.  When a decision had to be made there was no dithering, no hesitation.  When the decision was made, whether it was forced by the offenders or whether the former Marine voluntarily got involved, there was immediate action with the proper amount of force used to stop the criminal act or bear attack.  Whether they were in their twenties or eighties all nine men were physically fit enough to fight.   Fear was a motivating factor not a cause for panic.

  We realize this is anecdotal and not a scientific study, yet we can’t help but think that the training and the experience these Marines had gone through in their military service had served them long after they left the military.  Two of the Marines had empty handed fighting skills beyond the basic training, but there was nothing to indicate the others did.  When it came time to fight every individual Marine fought with what was available whether it was a firearm, knife, firewood or bare hands.

  There’s a ton of advice and information from the self-defense experts yet the above incidents defy much of the logic that is bandied about.  Thomas Autry was not only out numbered he was out gunned. He brought a knife to a multiple assailant gunfight-and won.  The 70 year old man in Costa Rica was out gunned by a man 50 years his junior and he won barehanded.  Gregory Floyd, having witnessed the murder of a police officer, absolutely knew the danger he was facing and yet he placed himself, initially unarmed, before an armed murderer.   Everhart’s firewood throw was "pure luck" Sometimes we create our luck.  Everhart’s hurling of the firewood was a manifestation of imposing his will, an act of mind, body and spirit working in perfect harmony for a split second. There’s constant debate among self-defense experts and defensive tactics trainers pertaining to "the better technique" or the "better system".  These men demonstrated that techniques and systems are not as important as possessing courage, the ability to make a quick decision under stress, the ability to impose one’s will, defiance, and strength-physical, mental and emotional.   We often hear that performance will break down under the stress of combat yet these men performed exceptionally well.

  Self-defense training is a worthwhile endeavor and there are techniques and systems that are technically better than others, but regardless of which techniques one uses having the courage, will, mindset and strength to fight back should never be taken for granted.  Good training should foster these traits.

  What is the one factor that all these former Marines, regardless of age, have in common?

  Marine Corp training.

  Having worked with numerous former Marines that are now police officers and federal agents we notice the same qualities as in the gentlemen described in the above incidents–courage, focused aggression, quick decision making under stress, and taking action without hesitation. 

  What are the take home lessons?

  1)  The overall lesson: To perform well under the stress of life and death situations requires training that is done with stressful conditions.  If the training is conceptually simple and, most important, is intense it will stay with the trainee for as long time.  The training may not cover every single situation,  but the concepts should be adaptable enough to cover a wide range of situations.

2)  Thomas Autry tried running from the gang of armed thugs and when that didn’t work he was forced to make a choice: fight or risk serious injury/death.  Autry apparently never assumed he should lose the fight because he was outnumbered and out-weaponed.  Autry didn’t cover up and go into the fetal position.  He was surrounded and he did what every Marine inspired by Lt. General Chesty Puller would do–he took the fight to the violent criminal actors!  The gang members stopped their assault in order to take their own to the hospital.  Had Autry decided he was in an impossible situation he would have been the one going to the hospital or morgue, his subconscious mind would have stopped searching for a solution to the problem before him.  When forced to fight multiple assailants, move and attack with unbridled ferocity, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Always keep a winning mind-set and your subconscious will yield solutions.  The better your training the better the solutions will come from the files of the subconscious mind.  Kicking weapons out of an attacker’s hand is extremely difficult to do, but this is the third real life case we know of this being done successfully.  Fortune favors the brave.

3) James Sjostrom’s incident contained little detail and was over quickly.  Sounds like it wasn’t a big deal and to Sjostrom it probably wasn’t.  This is probably because Sjostrom was skilled in hand to hand combat and in great shape from using kettlebells.  Fighting skill combined with the type of workouts that condition the whole body as a single unit as well as increase grip strength comes in handy when having to smash violent criminals.

4) The 70 year old former Marine vacationing in Costa Rica didn’t let the fact that the robbers were younger and had weapons stop him from fighting.   Defending  one’s self is not math.   We cannot quantify the combination of human spirit, courage and decisive action in a scientific formula.  This former Marine took action to stop a robbery and probably, in his mind, further violence.   The end result was one dead robber and two that ran when their "prey" became "predator" .  This former Marine, most likely, used a version of the straight choke or "air" choke, restricting breathing, and not the "blood" choke or "rear naked choke" used in combat sports.  When a 70 year old can kill a 20 year old, armed violent offender with a choke you know that’s a technique to have in your bag of tricks.

5) Gregory Floyd was unarmed and knew he was confronting an armed man who seconds before committed murder.  Floyd had the presence of mind to grab the fallen officer’s sidearm and the courage to stop the murderer.  Floyd did not spend time wondering if he should get involved.  He spent no time considering he didn’t have a weapon.  He spent no time debating with himself if the use of deadly force to stop the murderer of a police officer would be acceptable with the rest of society.  Floyd saw a murderer about to flee the scene of the crime and he took immediate, decisive action.  Fortune favors the brave.

6) Chris Everhart did what any father would want to do in order to protect a child from serious injury or death.  Everhart took immediate, decisive action arming himself with the closest object that would damage or at least distract the bear approaching his son.  The firewood thrown by Everhart was thrown with "bad intentions" and precision born of completely focusing on that one act, blocking out all other thoughts and distractions.  We are not suggesting man should hunt bear with firewood. We are suggesting that taking action and not dithering may make luck go your way when you’re in a tough spot.

7) Bill Barnes proved that even at 72 years old a life that included golden glove boxing and being an iron worker makes for a tough mind and body.  Being in good physical condition while young and staying active all through life keeps the body and mind sharp enough to defend one’s self against young punks who aren’t brave enough to work for a living.

8)  John Lovell, at 71, had the presence of mind to remain calm while the restaurant he was eating in was being robbed.  Lovell was out-gunned and outnumbered, but he didn’t let those facts stop him from drawing his concealed firearm and shooting his attackers when he was forced.  Lovell didn’t assume he was supposed to lose because he was outnumbered by younger attackers who had their weapons in their hands from the onset. Lovell’s attackers probably underestimated him-a recurring theme in former Marine incidents.  Never underestimate anyone.  Decisive action, proper mindset, having  a concealed firearm and the skill to use it won the day.

9) The 84 year old former Marine from Santa Rosa, California remained calm while facing the blade of a teenage robber.  Probably calmness gained from experience in real dangerous situations.  A simple and direct kick to the groin will work every time against someone who doesn’t believe you will fight back.  If this young robber was hoping for a fight he would have held up someone coming out of the local boxing  or mixed martial arts gym.  Instead, he picked an 84 year old man because there was no way a man of this age would fight back.  This wrong thinking blinds the coward from the kick to the groin.  The shock alone, that the man would fight back, probably devastated the young thug.  Once again we see decisive action, courage, calmness in the face of danger winning the day.  A kick that an 84 year old man can use successfully against a teenage robber needs to be a in your bag of tricks.

10)  Always be prepared.  In the moments before every incident described above, life was "normal", "routine" and "calm" for the former Marines.  Conditions change in the blink of an eye.  As former Marine and one of the greatest firearm and tactics instructors in the world, John Farnam says, "When you least expect it you’re elected".

   Plenty of former military personnel and civilians have successfully fought off violent criminals.  The difference with the above incidents is that in most cases the odds were very stacked against the former Marines.  The odds were against them because of the age difference, the weapon difference and/or being outnumbered.  The odds being against the former Marines never prevented them from accomplishing the mission–saving their own or someone else’s life. 

   In cartoons, comics and movies we have superheroes that help defend the city streets.  In real life the superheroes walking among us are active and former United States Marines!


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