My Experience With the Benefits of Martial Arts

I have wanted to write up my own personal take on why one might consider practicing martial arts and how it helped me in my life for quite some time now. As we all know, the health benefits of regular physical activity are numerous and obvious. Exercising can help us control our weight; improve our mental health; reduce risk of injury; decrease insulin resistance; strengthen our bones and muscles; increase our life expectancy; and reduce the risk of cancers, heart disease, and many other health issues. I do not want to focus too much on the obvious health benefits of practicing martial arts because they are indeed obvious. As a form of physical exercise, one would benefit from practicing martial arts in much the same way they would from other forms of exercise.

To expand upon one of the previously recognized benefits, it has been my experience that martial arts is immensely beneficial to one’s mental health in a variety of ways. Learning Taekwondo and later Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at a young age helped me to learn self-confidence, self-discipline, and self-esteem, and self-respect. It focused my mind and taught me the lesson of mind over matter, as it has for many others throughout history. I remember I used to struggle a lot with anger issues as a very young child. However, after several years of martial arts training, those issues dissipated from my life. It was a transformative experience for me, and I maintain to this day that earning my black belt in Taekwondo was the best thing which ever happened to me. Perhaps one day becoming a father will top that, but I have yet to experience anything which does.

Martial arts training
Martial arts is best learned at a young age to reap the most benefits, but it is suitable for all ages and never too late to start.

Undertaking that journey, the first year was the hardest. Getting started, there were many months where it felt as if I was making no progress. After the first year, I began to recognize I was excelling, albeit slowly day by day. Still, the feeling of wanting to stay home and rest instead of attending a class where I felt nothing was changing crept into my mind from time to time. There were many days when I struggled to shake the feeling that I was just going to a place where people bigger and stronger than me would have fun tossing me around like a rag doll, and every inclination I had was telling me to just go home. Overcoming that desire to stop and powering on through, no matter what, shaped me to be a better person than I would have otherwise been.

I found I reaped numerous benefits from undertaking that training and sticking through it. It increased my resilience, conditioning me to be stronger not just physically, but mentally as well. My threshold for pain tolerance increased and I was able to focus under pressure and pain without panicking or losing my train of thought. I could withstand punishment and maintain my composure; handle myself in hostile situations better; and think more clearly than ever before. After toughing it out through that training which pushed me past my limits, all the simple stressors in life started to seem more trivial, and the major stressors in life became far more manageable. The perspective it gave me at a young age was invaluable.

More recently, I have been thinking a lot about what I can do as a father to my future children. To that end, I certainly intent to teach martial arts to my children someday. It can be a fun family activity for everyone to enjoy and learn practical skills at the same time. Learning how to use historical weapons like swords also opens up the possibility for lots of silly fun and games. I have even discussed the possibility of having a mock knighting ceremony for the kids once they are able to beat me and my adult friends and family members in a duel. It would be a joy to pass on such knowledge to the next generation.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Different martial arts entail different rules, with some being focused on grappling, and others on striking.

Even if the idea of practicing a combat art seems daunting, I would still strongly recommend giving it a try. You never know if you might enjoy it, after all. When I was young, I tried many different athletic activities. However, I never found myself intrigued by sports like basketball, baseball, or traditional exercises. For me, practicing martial arts was a natural decision because I was learning practical skills which could help me defend myself in dangerous situations; I was improving my physical and mental health; and, perhaps most importantly, I was having fun. Enjoying your exercise is key to keeping you motivated and passionate about your health so that you stick with it instead of quitting. If you have been struggling to stay active and have yet to try practicing martial arts, I would recommend giving it a try! You may just find, as I did, it is the perfect physical activity for you.

Even if it turns out one does not particularly enjoy practicing a combat art, I would still recommend it regardless due to the practical benefits alone. If not for oneself, one may do it for the greater good of their community. After all, as Thucydides once said: “The society which separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools.” I love that quote. It speaks to me of the importance of teaching ourselves and our young how to read, write, and also to fight! Knowing how and when to effectively wield the pen and sword is key to maintaining serenity within oneself within one’s community.

Overall, my experience with martial arts was that it made me a better person in more ways than one. It improved me mentally, physically, and emotionally by giving me greater mastery and control over my body and mind. Knowing oneself and having a firm sense of control over one’s conduct is vital to enhancing our relationships and finding a fruitful place in our community. After all, it is strong and disciplined individuals which are the backbone of any productive society. Bettering ourselves is a pivotal first step in bettering the world around us.

There are other related topics which would be prudent to discuss. What kind of mindset would help one succeed in martial arts, how to find a good school, and what are the pros and cons of being professionally trained versus self-trained? These topics and others will no doubt be discussed further in future posts.

At this point, for those still curious about martial arts, a great place to start would be by reading about different arts and seeing what kinds of schools are available in your area. Even if you live in a remote area and cannot find a school nearby, if you can read this blog post, you can likely attend classes remotely with a webcam nowadays. The Internet is a powerful tool when used to cultivate our skills, knowledge, and wisdom.

What do you think about martial arts? Have you ever trained in a particular art? Which art do you think you would prefer?

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An Eternal Duty

Last week’s Independence Day celebrations, today’s anti-communist protests in Cuba, and my own ponderings on the founding documents of the United States and writings from Thomas Jefferson got me thinking about the duties of defending freedom and liberty, as well as the careful difference between liberty and licentiousness which must be recognized, lest we become slaves to our baser emotions. This poem was written as a product of those ponderings, and I may expand upon it in the future. I hope you all enjoy!

What does it mean to be free?
To choose one's own path
Unbound by the chains of tyranny
Unshackled by a planner's wrath

To be free is not to do whatever one desires,
But to do what one ought to do
To be free is to do what the world requires
And be ready to give the Tree of Liberty its due

We ought to defend that which is good and righteous
And steer away from that which may lead us astray
Let us not fall prey to our tempting vices
Let us not the rights of others betray

That all souls be endowed as equals abound
Free to pursue life as they wish
Without hampering others around
So that all may have equal chance to flourish

Freedom affords us the privilege to fight for what is right
And against what is wrong
Yet danger lurks should we lose our sight
And stand where we do not belong

So learn we must
From whence freedom came
To know and to trust
We stand for what we claim

From the past, a path forward is charted
Tradition guides us on our journey
A brighter future to be started
For our children to stand firmly

I am not yet sure what to title this poem. The blog post title may be considered a working title. I still want to expand more upon what liberty is and what it is not, and the duty to eternally defend it from those who would seek to undermine or redefine it for their own nefarious gain. Please feel free to share your thoughts, and share with others!

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The 4th of July: American Independence Day

Today is the 4th of July, American Independence Day. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted for Independence, and John Adams remarked the day would be remembered with fireworks and celebrations. The Declaration of Independence was dated July 4th, 1776 and was signed months later on August 2nd. Now, as that event continues to ring across the centuries, Americans celebrate the founding of the United States of America and its successful separation from the British Empire every year on the 4th of July with fireworks and celebrations. The American Revolutionary War officially ended in 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

Carpenter's Hall
The First Continental Congress met in Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia.

On this day each year, it is common for Americans to commemorate this historic moment out of gratitude and tradition. We are thankful for this nation which gives us a place to thrive and grow with opportunities one does not find outside of a nation. A nation is a collective piece of Humanity which has banded together under a common banner for the purposes of pursuing common goals and missions. Here in the United States, that mission is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To create a more perfect society, a plan was set in motion by the Founding Fathers where all human beings were created equal and consent of the governed was maintained. Centuries later, the American people have made great strides on that mission, despite the many battles and other hurdles we have faced along the way.

The American Revolutionary War happened during a time when the rule of monarchy and divine providence was coming to an unceremonious end. The American Revolution was part of that when the Continental forces stood up to the British Empire and the word of King George III. When the “shot heard round the world” rang off on April 18, 1775, it ignited a conflict that was years in the making as tensions mounted between the Colonies and the British monarch. The incident was ignited when British soldiers attempted to confiscate weapons and ammunition stockpiled by the American colonists. It is uncertain who fired the first shot. However, I would like to imagine the American colonists fired first in order to stop or at least deter the attempted human rights violation.

This incident led to the brief, but intense conflict known as the American Revolutionary War. Lasting only a year, it was the culmination of the political and ideological revolution which is noted to have began with the Stamp Act of 1765; informally ending with the Declaration of Independence in 1776; and finally seeing an official cessation of hostilities with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The Americans rejected the divine claim of the king to rule over them, and asserted that people are all created equal and thus should have the right to self-govern; elect their own representatives; and remove those in power if they fail to adequately represent their constituents. It was a drastic step toward the ideal of liberty and justice for all that stood in stark contrast from how humans had tended to organize and govern themselves before.

Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America and a co-signer of the Declaration of Independence.

It is useful to celebrate this momentous occasion for a variety of reasons. It helps to maintain national unity, which the signers of the U.S. Constitution knew would be an issue and made them hesitant to ratify the document as it was. It is said that Benjamin Franklin responded to a group of citizens who asked him what type of government they had decided upon as he took his leave from the Constitutional Convention. His answer was brief and to the point: “A republic, if you can keep it.” The celebration of Independence Day is a time where we can all appreciate the sacrifices made for us by generations past, as well as the burden placed upon us in order to maintain the gift we were given.

In a letter to Abigail Adams dated July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote these words:

"I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States.—Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."
John Adams
John Adams was another Founding Father and co-signer of the Declaration of Independence.

In remembering and celebrating the gift of this nation bestowed upon us, we remind ourselves of the duty accompanying it. The tyranny of the majority is a major flaw of democracies by which societies have been destroyed. Indeed, it was a democratic movement which fomented the rebellion against the British Empire. The signers of the Constitution knew this, and knew it would be a threat to the stability of the United States in the future. Indeed, it was not long before internal rebellions occurred in the U.S. under similar pretext and justifications as were used in the initial revolt against King George III, such as the Whiskey Rebellion of 1974.

It can be difficult to discern which rebellions are just and which are unjust. Certainly, as we have seen with the wave of socialist revolutions which swept the Earth in the 20th Century and led to destitution for the afflicted communities, not all uprisings are done in good faith and actually benefit the people. However, there have obviously been revolts in human history which were a net benefit, and the distinction between them is assuredly found in the details of who is fighting; what they are fighting for; and why. This takes critical thinking skills and a careful consideration of the issues at hand, as well as what should be done about them. This is why the rebellion against the British Empire was vigorously debated before, during, and after.

Yet forces are always pushing and pulling in all such directions so as to upheave the status quo at almost all points in human history, and not unpleasantly so. After all, nothing new or improved is ever gained by adhering to the status quo indefinitely. However, some things do need to be maintained as tradition is important to survival. As such, it is prudent to take the time this day to remember the careful consideration given to the American Revolution. It was not something done on a whim. The fighting itself was brief, yet the entire movement involved many years of careful discussions. Documents such as the Declaration of Independence are examples of the careful consideration which went into this movement, and that intensity of thought which is necessary to ensure such a conflict is in the best interests of the people and is worthy of appreciation.

The Declaration of Independence was a treasonous document against the high crown of King George III. It was a bold statement which declared that people have inalienable rights which are so intrinsic to their being as to be inseparable, even if they voluntarily choose to waive those rights. These would eventually be expounded upon in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. However, the Declaration of Independence was the initial document to articulate what it was that the current system of government was doing wrong; why it was wrong; and what was happening to be done about it.

Declaration of Independence
The original Declaration of Independence is preserved and on display in the Rotunda at the National Archives Museum.

The Declaration of Independence was a bold statement against the status quo of common violation of human rights at the hands of existing governments, by declaring the inherent nature of said rights and their preeminence to the government. According to the Declaration, it was the duty of the government to protect the natural rights possessed by all humans – which were in their view endowed by God, their Creator – and that there was a systematic failure on behalf of the British Empire to do so. Moreover, the Empire was identified as the perpetrator of the systematic violations, and this disqualified them from being able to govern any further.

On this day, it would be wise to read the Declaration of Independence and appreciate the thought which went into this wonderous document. We can appreciate the relevance of its words on natural rights and the preeminence of those rights to the government. This is a document which not only was carefully crafted and carries timeless wisdom, but was also the founding document which officially recognized the birth of the nation many owe their current existence to. If it were not for the ability of humans to form nations with various systems, every individual would have to be their own survival system and the people as a whole would not be able to accomplish as much since the individual would be consumed each day with ensuring basic survival needs are met. Yet, while gifting us with a nation we all share, the Declaration still champions the rights of the individual as paramount, stating the collective nation is not allowed to subvert individual rights for the purposes of maintaining any system.

The Declaration of Independence – signed July 4th, 1776 – was truly an astounding artifact of human history which we all can appreciate and celebrate. I was happy to see the people of my community celebrating today with a parade in town, and the fireworks which blanket the sky each night over the weekend. Independence Day is a joyous occasion in which we give reverence to the Declaration of Independence; the years of discourse which led up to it; the months of battles which were fought for it; and the rights and responsibilities bestowed to Americans by it. It is an honor to be an American and to have the duty to both uphold these traditional American values, as well as defend them against future threats.

Do you celebrate American Independence Day? If so, I recommend taking a minute to read the Declaration of Independence if you do not already do so as part of your celebrations. Also, what other festivities do you engage in to celebrate Independence Day, and what else would you recommend to better commemorate the Declaration? If you live in a different country, do you have a similar holiday you celebrate? What do you know about the history and meaning behind that holiday, and what can you do to honor that history?

You can read a full transcription of the Declaration of Independence here.

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

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Heroes From History: Paik Sun Yup

Paik Sun-Yup was a war hero for the Republic of Korea who served during the Korean War, reaching the rank of a four-star general during his military career. He also was the the chairman of the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff and even worked as an ambassador for South Korea to France, Taiwan, Canada, and other nations. Paik was instrumental in helping to forge the Mutual Defense Treaties between the United States, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea. His leadership during the Korean War also was critical in ensuring all of the Korean Peninsula did not fall into famine and destitution at the hands of the communists.

Paik was born in the year 1920 in Tokhung, Kangso County. When he was five year old, his family moved to Pyongyang. Paik attended the Mukden Military Academy to escape poverty and became part of the Manchurian Army. Critics of Paik’s highlight this to smear his record as he likely fought against insurgents on behalf of the Empire of Japan when Korea was under Japanese occupation, but he gained vital skills that would help him in his people’s fight against the specter of communism later in life, leading others to argue to remember his service to the people of Korea in their fight for freedom against dark forces.

Paik Sun-yup with the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division
Paik Sun Yup and a US Air Force liaison officer looking at the US 1st Cavalry Division

After WWII, the Korean Peninsula was in disarray. No longer under Japanese rule, both the Soviet Union and the United States agreed to maintain custodial operations of the region until the Koreans could set up a government of their own. Paik worked in Pyongyang in the north until the Soviets began a crackdown on anticommunists, resulting in the arrest of Paik’s commanding officer. He fled south beyond the 38th parallels and joined the U.S. and ROK forces, becoming a first lieutenant in the ROK Army and eventually working his way up to the rank of colonel. When the communists invaded from the north, Paik was in command of the ROK 1st Division in defense of Seoul.

Heroic Leadership

There are numerous instances where Paik’s leadership helped the ROK 1st survive tremendous hardship and turn the tide against the communist invaders. At Seoul near the onset of the fighting, the communists came out with T-34 tanks supplied by the Soviet Union. With no training against armor and no anti-tank weapons, Paik’s options to repel the offensive were limited. He described how his forces would be struck with paralysis from fear at the mentioning of the word “tank” from the brutal fighting. In desperation, the ROK 1st formed suicide squads which rushed at the tanks, climbed on top of them, and detonated grenades all around the the exterior to destroy them. The tactic was costly, and although required many brave souls to charge into certain death, it was an effective strategy that allowed the ROK 1st to stand up to the heavy armor of the communists.

Still, such a strategy was unsustainable. Paik and his forces were eventually cut off from support and resupply after Seoul was lost, and they were running out of troops and ammo. Still, the ROK 1st managed to hold out against overwhelming odds in the outskirts near Seoul until the Americans brought in air support. With cover from above, Paik and the ROK 1st began their retreat to Taejon, a journey spanning 200 miles. They continued to be attacked by communist forces as they made the trek, and Paik learned he was promoted to brigadier general.

The ROK 1st continued to be involved in fighting continued along an area known as the Pusan Perimeter. At one point, they acquired an anti-tank weapon and were responsible for eliminating 10 enemy T-34s before having to retreat even further. The ROK and the Americans tried to hold the line with the ROK along the norther part of the Pusan Perimeter and the Americans along the western boundary. Still, the communists were relentless, and even American air support was unable to halt their advance.

The ROK and the Americans were pushed back to the city of Taegu, where Paik found himself working with U.S. Colonel John Michaelis. For days, they fought against the communist tanks with American tanks in support, but it still did not seem to be enough. Paik and the ROK 1st found themselves out of ammo and engaging in vicious hand-to-hand combat with the enemy night after night, desperate to survive. Eventually, the Eleventh Regiment of the ROK 1st was broken and sent into full retreat. Michaelis was going to pull the friendly tanks out, as they could not afford to lose the armor.

Paik Sun-Yup and Chung Il-Gwon
Paik Sun-Yup (left) next to Chung Il-Gwon (right) in 1951

Paik knew he had to do something drastic to save everyone, as they had nowhere left to go. They had already retreated almost all the way to the shoreline. Instead of falling to the communists, he took a jeep to the front personally and addressed the troops with his famous “If I turn back, shoot me.” speech.

"I want to thank you for fighting like you have. But we just don't have room to retreat any more. The only place left for us to go is into the ocean. If we run now, Korea is done for. Look at those American troops over there. They're fighting because they trust the ROK Army, and if we retreat, we bring shame down on the entire ROK Army. We are men of Korea; let us fight for this land. We're going to turn around and kick the enemy off our ridge, and I shall be at the front. If I turn back, shoot me." - Paik Sun-Yup, 20 August 1950

Paik then charged into battle at the front of the group, and he and the other brave warriors of the ROK 1st pushed back the dark forces of the communists, retook the hill they had just been pushed off of, and held their position against the enemy’s counterattack. U.S. Colonel Michaelis recalled the events of the battle and commented on Paik’s unwavering bravery. He said of the hero, “When I saw the division commander himself leading that attack, I knew the ROK Army was God’s own force.” This moment was arguably the most pivotal moment of Paik’s contribution to human history, and it was this moment that I believe he was a beacon of light in the fight against the forces of darkness.

Paik Sun-Yup
Paik Sun-Yup was a pivotal figure in Human History

This was far from the end of Paik’s self-sacrifice, however. He also took part in the assault on Pyongyang after the ROK and the UN forces managed to turn the tide. It seemed as the though the war was coming to a close, and even Paik himself thought this was so and that Korea would soon be united. However, the Chinese Communist Party sent forces to attack the ROK, much to everyone’s surprise. Reportedly, General MacArthur did not believe the Chinese would intervene and initially dismissed the possibility.

Darkness Strikes Back

As the ROK 1st was pushing up the Yalu River to Unsan and hunting down the remaining NKPA troops, an unknown enemy attacked. Paik and his forces were overwhelmed. They captured prisoners and learned they were Chinese communists, and that they had the ROK surrounded. After days of brutal fighting, the ROK was thrown into retreat and any hopes of a swift end to the conflict were dashed. The Chinese communists wiped out entire ROK divisions and forced the entire army into retreat from Pyongyang before advancing further.

The Chinese communist forces attacked the ROK at Seoul, forcing them and the UN to retreat once more. Further Chinese communist offensives occurred along the 38th Parallel. Paik noticed in the months to come that Chinese POWs were increasingly starving, demoralized, and often infected with disease. This told him that the enemy was likely not as strong as originally believed, and he was correct. Paik and his fellow Korean warriors fought alongside Americans under the command of General Ridgeway, launching counteroffensives against the Chinese communist positions and eventually retaking Seoul in 1951 and reestablishing a line of control along the 38th Parallel.

Paik Sun-Yup was then promoted to Major General and given command of the ROK I Corps, leaving his command over the ROK First Division. He described great difficulty in leaving the warriors he had fought alongside through so much hell for 10 straight months. In his new position, he was responsible for training and overseeing all operations for the ROK I Corps. Paik’s leadership as a Major General was credited for the successful defense of Taegwallyong and inflicting heavy casualties against Chinese communist forces throughout the war. Under Major General Paik Sun-Yup, the ROK I Corps was able to succeed where many others could not.

Paik Sun-Yup and UN delegation
Paik (third from the left) took part in the armistice talks as a UN delegate.

Paik also partook in and helped to oversee the retraining of the entire ROK army. He supported the assessment of U.S. advisers that doubling the size of the army would not matter since the existing forces were not performing to expectations, defying his superiors who simply wanted to increase recruitment numbers without adjusting the ROK army training program. He directly contradicted the suggestion of the Korean President Syngman Rhee, who Paik was known to be fiercely loyal to. He did not want to contradict the wishes of his leader, but he knew he had to stand up for what he knew would be best for his people as a whole, even if it made him unpopular in the short term.

In the end, Paik’s bravery on and off the battlefield payed off massively. After the retraining, the ROK military no longer had disorganized retreats and were able to hold their own on the battlefield. By the end of 1952, 75% of the friendly forces fighting the communists on the Korean Peninsula were ROK. The war continued for some time as both sides fought each other to a stalemate. Paik was eventually promoted to Lieutenant General for his valor in Operation Rat Killer, helping to deal a massive blow to communist insurgents operating far to the south, far away from the front. Paik was then tasked with recruiting and training an entire new ROK corps, which he completed in April of 1952.

A Life Well-Lived

Paik Sun-Yup
Paik was an experienced diplomat later in life.

Paik eventually retired and went on to continue to serve the people of Korea in many other roles. He founded the Army Intelligence School and was an accomplished diplomat. Paik passed away on 10 July 2020 and leaves behind an astounding and inspiring story of heroism and bravery.

People like Paik are a testament to how far Humanity has come and an inspiration to keep us moving ever forward in defense of freedom. His acts of courage and valor are legendary. Paik represents one of the best of Humanity, having fought valiantly against the dark forces of communism in the First Cold War. We can only hope to live up to his example when we are called upon, should our time ever come.

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Heroes From History: Jesse Brown and Thomas Hudner

Human history is filled with stories about bravery, brotherhood, and the power of friendship. There are many instances throughout the existence of our species which exemplify these traits and inspire us to be better than we are. This is one of those tales, which despite not having the happiest of endings, speaks to the importance of courage and bravery, as well as the power of the bond between friends that pushes us to strive for greatness.

Jesse Brown was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on October 13, 1926. He studied aviation and aeronautics at Ohio State University. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1946 and went straight to flight school at NAS Pensacola. Brown was the first African-American aviator in the U.S. Navy, graduating as a pilot in 1948. He was one of the few in his class to successfully complete the training with the new F4U aircraft which had bigger engines that blocked the pilot’s view when landing. Brown was trained with a different aircraft, but pilots were required to qualify with the new F4Us at the time of his final testing. Out of the 100 trainees, Brown was one of 6 who managed to qualify with the new aircraft.

Jesse Brown's Graduation Photo
Jesse Brown’s graduation photo

Hudner was born in Fall River, Massachusetts on August 31, 1924. He was accepted into Harvard, but declined the invitation in order to join the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. After graduating in 1946, Hudner briefly served aboard the USS Helena off the coast of China as a signal officer before being reassigned to Pearl Harbor with CINCPAC. Eventually, he applied for flight training to try and become a pilot, and in April of 1948, he entered into Naval flight training at NAS Pensacola. After basic training, he received his specialized flight training to become a F4U-4 Corsair pilot at NAS Corpus Christi. Hudner graduated as a new Navy pilot in 1949.

Thomas Hudner's Graduation Photo
Thomas Hudner’s graduation photo

The two would-be heroes met onboard the USS Leyte in Narragansett Bay off the coast of Quonset Point, Rhode Island. They were part of the VF-32, a fighter squadron nicknamed the “Fighting Swordsmen” or “Fighting 32.” Even though Hudson was a higher rank, Brown was the more experienced fighter pilot, and so Hudson was assigned as Brown’s wingman per Navy policy. The two became good friends flying together. They would become instrumental in providing close air support to ground forces during the Korean War, a role which brought them into their fateful last mission together during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

Leading up to that final mission, Jesse Brown became a section leader for VF-32 and received commendations for leading daring attacks against communist forces. Brown was awarded the Air Medal by the U.S. Navy for bravery and excellence in the face of vicious anti-aircraft fire, inflicting heavy causalities on the communists at Wonsan, Chongjin, Songjin, and Sinanju. Under Brown’s leadership, the VF-32 was able to evade AA fire and support allied ground forces from overwhelming Chinese communist numbers. With close air support from the F4U Corsairs, the Americans and South Koreans were able to withstand being outnumbered by 10-1 and still win fights against the communists.

The Korean War was a conflict between North and South Korea that began on 25 June 1950 and still officially continues to this day. However, a ceasefire was reached 27 July 1953. It was a part of the First Cold War. The North Koreans were supported by the communists in the former Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. The South Koreans were supported by the United States and a coalition of numerous other countries from the United Nations. After three years of brutal conflict, a stalemate was reached and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) established. Tensions have occasionally flared up recently as a result of the currently ongoing Second Cold War between the United States of America and the Chinese Communist Party.

USS Leyte
The USS Leyte (CV-32) at anchor in 1950.

As for Jesse Brown and Thomas Hudner, their role in this human story came to a climax in the wintery mountains near Pyongyang on December 4, 1950. The Battle of Chosin Reservoir saw 30,000 brave American, South Korean, and British warriors face off against approximately 120,000-300,000 communists from mainland China. Jesse Brown deployed with his squadron from the USS Leyte 100 miles off the Korean coast as part of Task Force 77. Their mission was to fly low and identify Chinese communist targets engaged with the Americans and South Koreans for 3 hours, and then return.

Unfortunately, Brown’s Corsair – Iroquois 13 – was hit by small arms fire and critically damaged. Chinese “White Jackets,” named so due to their all-white camouflage which hid them in the snowy mountains managed to hit the oil line of Brown’s aircraft, bringing him down in the mountain range. He radioed to Hudner that he was losing oil pressure and going down. Brown’s aircraft broke up during the impact and trapped his leg, preventing him from freeing himself from the burning hot wreckage.

Battle of Chosin Reservoir
The Battle of Chosin Reservoir took place in the snowy mountains near Pyongyang.

Hudner refused to leave his fellow pilot behind. He said he had been influenced heavily by the U.S. Marines aboard the USS Leyte and their refusal to ever leave a another Marine behind. In that moment, seeing his section leader crashed in the mountains, Hudner made the decision to intentionally crash his plane next to Brown’s in order to make a daring rescue attempt while the rest of the squadron provided cover.

Hudner survived his crash landing and made his way over to Brown’s crash site. He was unsuccessful in freeing Brown’s leg, and instead tried to stop the fire from spreading by putting snow on the burning plane fragments near Jesse. Hudner radioed for help, requesting a helicopter to bring some tools to help free Brown from the wreckage. Charlie Ward, another friend of Jesse’s came in a helicopter with the tools and landed at the crash site. Together, Ward and Hudner tried to free Brown without success.

Napalm Strike
Napalm strikes assisted friendly ground forces in the fight against the Chinese communists during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

Jesse began to lose consciousness from loss of blood, and night was coming closer as the sun began to set. Helicopters could not operate at nighttime in that era, and Ward warned Hudner they would have to leave before nightfall or they would never make it back. They tried to free Brown some time longer, as Hudner refused to leave his friend behind. Sadly, Jesse Brown died from blood loss, and Hudner and Ward were unable to free his body before they were forced to retreat.

Jesse Brown died at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir on December 4, 1950. The day after, four Corsairs from the USS Leyte flew over his crash site and deployed a napalm strike over the wreckage in tribute to their fallen section leader. Jesse Brown was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his brave and noble service. A U.S. Navy frigate, the USS Jesse L. Brown was commissioned in 1973 in his honor.

USS Jesse Brown
The USS Jesse Brown

Thomas Hudner survived the Korean War and made a career in the U.S. Navy. He served for 26 years and attained the rank of Captain before retiring. Thomas Hudner was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor for his daring rescue attempt during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, almost ending his own life when he intentionally crashed his Corsair in the mountains alongside Brown’s to try and rescue his section leader. In 2018, the U.S. Navy commissioned a guided-missile destroyer in his honor, the USS Thomas Hudner. He passed away on November 13, 2017.

USS Thomas Hudner
The USS Thomas Hudner

To further commemorate the sacrifice of Jesse Brown and Thomas Hudner, the painting known as the Devotion was created and hung aboard the USS Massachusetts. It pictures a Corsair, flying low among the fog, just above the water. Other craft can be seen off in the distance, flying through the snowy mountain range. The Devotion is a painting meant to show the Corsair of Thomas Hudner about to crash into the mountainside as the rest of the squadron provided cover. It is accompanied by the images of Hudner and Jesse Brown, to honor their service in that fateful battle. The Devotion is pictured below.

The Devotion
The Devotion is a painting aboard the USS Massachusetts which depicts Thomas Hudner’s Corsair crashing.

As humans, we are all part of a whole which is stronger than any one of us is individually. Understanding the value of that whole, it becomes easier to understand why some people would go to great lengths to try and help others. We are stronger together, and a desire to stick together drives us to face insurmountable odds to try and stay together. Jesse Brown and Thomas Hudner’s story embodies that.

What do you think of the story of Jesse Brown and Thomas Hudner? Do you approve of Thomas Hudner’s decision to crash his own plane to try and save Jesse Brown? Does the fact that Hudner was unsuccessful and Brown still died impact your stance on Hunder’s actions? Please, feel free to share your thoughts and talk about them with others.

Thomas Hudner and Daisy Brown next to President Truman
Thomas Hudner and Jesse Brown’s wife, Daisy Brown next to President Truman.

I believe that Hudner made the right call to try and save his friend, even though he was unsuccessful. I almost decided not to share this story because Hudner was unsuccessful. I was unsure if it was inspiring because of Brown’s death. I felt it would be more heroic if Hudner was able to save his friend, and it certainly would have been. However, I felt the story was still inspiring to me, as it embodied the devotion of one friend to another and the lengths one would go to try and save the life of their companion. The fact that we cannot always save our friends only makes this story more emotionally impactful to me.

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Diamond In the Sky: A Haiku Series

A few years ago, I wrote poem about the life cycle of a star. I called it, “Diamond In the Sky.” I tried to find that poem to republish it here, but it was on my previous computer which I reformatted and gave away a while back. I did not create a copy, unfortunately. However, I remember the general idea and some of the original lines. This is my recreation of that lost piece of art. Please enjoy the rebirth of that poem. This is “Diamond In the Sky: A Haiku Series.”

Born of fiery dust
A cloud of heated fury
From here, stars are born
A nebula is sometimes called a “stellar nursery,” as it is an area where new starts are born
Giving life and warmth
Worlds thrive and bask in its light
Breathing in and out
A light in the dark
Standing bright against the void
A beacon of hope
Sun in between buildings
Our sun’s energy is one of the driving factors in the evolution of biological life on Earth.
A long life it lives
Remaining as we pass on
Watching each new heir
Eons pass it by
An eternal spring of life
Always giving more
Sun and Red Giant
A size comparison between Earth’s sun today versus its future size as a red giant.
Even in the end
When fusion fades and death nears
New life emerges
Plasma stripped away
And light blown into darkness
A diamond awakes
White Dwarf Star
A white dwarf star is a massive diamond so hot, it shines with a burning bright white light.

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What Does It Mean to Be Brave?

“Brave” is an adjective which can be defined as “willing to do things which are difficult or dangerous without showing fear.” So, a person who is brave has the willingness to take on dangerous and/or difficult tasks without showing fear. Does that mean they are not afraid? Not necessarily. Of course, fear can be an involuntary emotional response to stimuli in our environment. As humans, we do not necessarily control the emotions we feel in response to the world around us, but we can choose how we act in response to those emotions going on in our minds and bodies.

Someone who is brave then is not necessarily someone who does not feel fear. In fact, it is commonly understood that feeling fear is necessary to be brave. For if one does not feel fear, what have they to overcome? A brave individual certainly feels fear, for the feeling of fear brings with it many benefits when properly controlled. They simply do not allow their fear to impede or prevent them from completing difficult or dangerous tasks. This requires great emotional control, which is another concept to be discussed.

What exactly is “emotional control” or “emotional self-regulation.” Again, this does not mean one never feels fear, or any other emotion. Fear is a perfectly normal response to danger. In fact, it would arguably be abnormal if one did not feel fear in the presence of something dangerous or threatening. A person with great emotional control simply has the experience in dealing with heightened emotional states and has practiced calming themselves through either intentional techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, and even cognitive reframing; or just through dealing with difficult situations and learning from experience.

D-Day Landing at Normandy
On June 6, 1944, the Battle of Normandy began with the D-Day invasion.

Another important thing to discuss is how to be brave. What if one does not feel brave, yet wants to? How do they reach that psychological state of confidence in themselves and their abilities, such that they do not give into fear? For me, and many others, that achievement is found through training. Of course, one often naturally grows braver as they get older. So, if you are young, you need only grow. However, deliberate and organized training certainly accelerates the learning process of any skill or ability one is seeking to hone.

Preparation abates worry. If you are worried you forgot something when packing for a trip, it is likely because you did not form a checklist of everything you should bring and check off items as they were packed. If you are feeling so nervous during a job interview that you cannot speak clearly when the interviewer asks you questions, it is likely because you did not practice beforehand with a career coach or other trusted person who trained you in what to say and do under that pressure.

So, how do you stay calm, think clearly, and act deliberately in a dangerous situation? Through training, simulations, and conditioning yourself to do what you need to do through repetitions. Being trained is being prepared. Plus, learning new skills and honing them can be a fun experience that is rewarding in its own right, such as practicing martial arts or operating a vehicle.

The "Tank Man"
The “Tank Man” is an unidentified Chinese man who stood in front of a column of tanks in communist-controlled Beijing on June 5, 1989 after the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

I remember one day I was driving down a two-lane street in a no-passing zone, just minding my own business and running some errands. On the incoming side of the street, a long line had formed at an intersection that wrapped around some tress, blocking the part of the street I was one from view to drivers further back on the incoming side. This was the reason why the street was a no-passing zone, yet one impatient driver decided to risk skipping the line and drove into my lane, approaching me head on.

Without thinking, I instinctively swerved around the incoming car at the last moment as it drove straight toward me. Luckily, there was room enough in the grass on the side of the road for me to do so. My passenger screamed hysterically, yet I calmly navigated the situation without panicking or shutting down. It was just second nature to me to evade the incoming obstacle. How? Well, I had been driving for years and was familiar with how a car operates and the feel of a vehicle’s momentum, and I had a lot of experience with driving simulators where avoiding such danger was a common requirement. I have lost count of how many times I have avoided a would-be fatal accident like that in simulations, so it came naturally to me to perform the necessary evasive maneuver without much thought. Training was my salvation.

Often, the fear we feel is our anticipation of a threat, and it subsides when the danger passes or is thrust upon us. When the threat is near and we see it approaching, we feel fear in anticipation. When it is present and must be addressed, we are immersed in the danger we anticipated, and our brains hyper-focus on sensory information. This experience often involves reduced critical thinking skills as we fall back on our training to make up for the intense focus on gross motor movements and reaction time.

Two Knights
Before the invention of the crossbow, it is said that one or two knights could defend a village from an entire raiding party of bandits.

Also, there is great utility in fear during situations where we do have time to experience it. So long as one does not give into fear and make way for panic, fear itself can be a powerful motivator and guiding force. It can make us see more clearly and think quicker, as there is less time to make a decision. Our brains recognize this in the presence of a threat, and can temporarily give us access to heightened senses and more sensory data which our brains may usually ignore. Yet, there is of course a natural tendency for fear to give way to panic, and this is often the consequence of an untrained, unprepared mind.

This is why training is so important. In a dangerous situation, your training may be all you have to work with once your brain goes into threat-response mode. Fight or flight leaves little time to think. You act quickly with little time to reflect on your options, so what you trained to do with countless repetitions becomes the actions you take in that moment. Thus, there may at times be no experience of fear before one does something brave, as there is no time to think about much of anything. When I evaded that oncoming car immediately and without warning, I did not have time for any feeling or thinking, and immediately acted upon what I was trained to do.

Thus, training is paramount. Training and preparation for the challenges ahead are the key to success in dangerous or difficult situations. With the right training, one can be confident in their preparedness for the hurdles life will throw at them. Yet, how do we know what we should be prepared for? As human beings, we are not psychic. We cannot see the days ahead before they arrive, and can only plan for what we expect to encounter. Those expectations are shaped by our past experiences and what we have learned from those who came before us.

Spelling Bee competition
For some, being brave may be as simple as speaking in front of a crowd at a spelling bee instead of falling silent and running away.

What we can do is hope for the best and plan for the worst. We prepare ourselves for the future by training and planning for the challenges we foresee as best as we are able. One bit of personal advice I would have for others, and something I strive for in my own life, is to be prepared the most for those situations which I assume will never happen to me. Do I drive around with a spare tire because I believe I am going to need it every time I go out? No. On the contrary, I expect to never need it. However, if I find myself in a situation where I need the spare tire and do not have it, that will be a most difficult crisis to endure.

I like to think about the most demanding, challenging, and dangerous crises which may befall me or my family and prepare for those as best I can. For it is those situations which will be the most harrowing should I not be prepared, and it can help me to overprepare for smaller crises – for which there is no such thing as being “too prepared.” Through training, planning, and preparation, I gain the confidence that even when life gets hard, I will be able to find my way through. It is with this confidence that I am able to be brave in the face of fear and keep moving forward on my way through life.

What does bravery mean to you? How do you overcome your fears in life? What are your thoughts on fear? Do you experience fear as something useful, or do you feel it holds you back? If you feel your fear is stopping you from accomplishing your goals, what are some steps you might take to overcome it?

This weekend was the anniversary of the D-Day invasion and the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The soldiers who landed on the shores of Normandy and the Tank Man who stood before the communist tanks prompted me to write this thought piece, pondering what bravery means to me and what I can do to be more brave moving forward. While I can only hope to some day be as brave as those who accomplished faced such unimaginable danger, I will certainly do my best overcome my daily fears and live up to the legacy of the great humans who have come before me.

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History of Decoration Day (Memorial Day)

Memorial Day is a national holiday in the United States of America. It was originally known as Decoration Day until the First World War. While many States claim to have been the first to commemorate the holiday, and the exact year of its founding is disputed, most sources officially recognize the holiday as founded in 1868. The holiday was established by the Grand Army of the Republic, a veteran organization founded by Union soldiers who had fought in the Civil War, three years after the Confederates surrounded in 1865.

Memorial Day visitation
Many visit the graves of fallen loved ones on Memorial Day to pay their respects.

Nevertheless, there were memorial services in the spirit of holiday as early as 1866. In the city of Columbus, Mississippi, four women took the time to adorn the local cemetery with flowers where Union and Confederate soldiers killed at the Battle of Shiloh were equally honored as fallen warriors who died fighting for a cause they believed, and buried side-by-side as Americans. The celebration of this holiday was divisive and controversial until WWI when it was changed to honor all fallen American service members who had died in combat.

Nevertheless, even the earliest celebrations of it carried that mutual respect inherent to the memorial service in Mississippi back in 1866. Decoration Day spurred different, if not competing commemorations in the Northern and Southern States, as each saw the conflict differently. This changed after the last of the veterans of the Civil War had passed on and the First World War came to fruition. After that, and with the changing of the holiday to recognize all American service members killed in battle, the sentiment surrounding the holiday changed and became more universal.

Civil War Unknowns Monument
A Memorial Day ceremony circa 1915 at the Civil War Unknowns Monument.

Memorial Day unofficially marks the start of the summer season. It was originally declared to be the 30th of May by Major General John A. Logan, but was later changed to the last Monday of May with a federal act of Congress in 1971. It was believed that plenty of flowers would be in bloom around this time, which was conducive to the human practice of placing flowers on the graves of fallen warriors and honoring their sacrifice which dates back to Ancient Athens, if not earlier. In the United States, the President is expected to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Burial of the Unknown Soldier
The Unknown Soldier was an unidentified American serviceman who was killed in action in France during WWI and was buried in 1921.

In the year 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance Act was passed. This established the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance, tasked with fostering reverence and honor for all the fallen American heroes who have died in service of the United States, and to encourage people to give back something to their country which has given them the freedom to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Americans are encouraged to stop what they are doing at 3:00 p.m. in their local time and have a moment of silence where they reflect on the ultimate sacrifice of American warriors who have died across the centuries to protect the United States, from the Revolutionary War to the modern day.

Memorial Day is a special day to me. It gives me a chance to reflect on the heroes who fought in the Revolutionary War, who had their homes burned to the ground, their names slandered by their neighbors, and their family members slaughtered for daring to resist and stand against the Empire. It reminds me of the Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War to foment the vision of the Founding Fathers like Thomas Paine who criticized slavery as morally incompatible with the word of God, fighting for a world where all people were free from the chains of chattel slavery.

It also makes me stop and think about the battles which have been waged since, and those yet to come. It also makes me think back to the Bushido Code of the Japanese Samurai which existed from 1185 to 1868. The Samurai respected the enemies and did not strike them down out of anger. They showed reverence to those who had died in battle, and their sense of loyalty was absolute. The Buddhist Samurai also believed they would be condemned to eternal damnation in the afterlife since they were trained to kill, yet they still accepted the burden because they were loyal to the cause of protecting those who could not protect themselves. That level of service and devotion is worthy of respect.

Gravestones at Arlington
Gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery decorated on Memorial Day.

This reminds me of the original spirit of what we now know as Memorial Day. Americans have never been entirely united on the causes we fight for, yet are expected to respect those warriors who have fallen in service of these United States. Soldiers do not often choose the battles they fight, nor do they fight for anyone other than the survival of those beside them. They fight even when they disagree with the cause at hand. That level of service and devotion is admirable and worthy of the sincerest respect. Without that dedication, Humanity would likely not have the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights as a guiding framework which will no doubt be used by future generations as a baseline for the framework of new nations.

Memorial Day is a day for Americans to appreciate the ultimate sacrifice which many fallen American warriors have made in order to protect the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. This sentiment is timeless and carries itself across the entire span of human history. From hunter-gatherers who would have defended their families from saber tooth tigers with sticks and stones, to the Allies who stormed the beaches of Normandy in the Second World War, we all likely have someone whom we are grateful to for giving their life in battle to defend others. For that, we should pay our respects on this day and honor their sacrifice.

May you all have a peaceful Memorial Day tomorrow.

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The Trials of Humanity: A Haiku Series

As I was reflecting on how far Humanity has come and how much further we have yet to go, I pondered how corrupt empires and authoritarian regimes have risen up throughout history, time and time again. Every time, one way or another, they do seem to be self-defeating and lead their followers – who they control through fear and pain – to turn against them sooner or later. Humanity trends toward greater liberty as we learn and grow. Defenders of light are eventually forced from their homes, brought out into the fray while they just wish to be left alone. This haiku series reflects on that cycle of darkness rising and light to meet it with a few images of conflicts which have shaped Human History in significant ways over the past few centuries.

French Revolution
The French Revolution is widely considered to have marked the end of major monarchies and the idea of divine right to rule.
Born into bounty
A land full of life and lush
Never left wanting

Darkness defeated
Retreating into shadow
Light abound once more
Mushroom cloud over Nagasaki
The Second World War saw the first and only combat deployment of thermonuclear weapons to date, as well as the United Nations emerging as a successor to the League of Nations.
A sea of plenty
Generations of good times
The strong grow weaker

The shadow returns
In the absence of challenge
Giants fall corrupt
Korean refugee during the Cold War
The Cold War saw many battles that followed after WWII as new conflicts took shape and competing regimes wrestled around the ideas of socialism versus capitalism.
Guardians fall asleep
Evil finds its place once more
A new threat will rise

The sheep lose their hope
Where is the sheepdog to fight?
Who will protect them?
Quad Naval Formation
Naval vessels from the U.S. Japan, Australia, and India conducting a joint exercise as part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue in what is being referred to as the Second Cold War.
The cycle repeats
Darkness rises once again
And Light to meet it

The Great War, often referred to as WWI was thought to be the war to end all wars. Perhaps, one day humans will develop cyberwarfare capabilities so advanced that bloodshed will become obsolete as a means of upsetting corrupt power structures. I have doubts that war itself will ever become obsolete because war can take many forms. An information war – such as an election – can be used to unseat a corrupt official. A world without war would be a world where the status quo is maintained indefinitely, and that is not a world I would imagine anyone would want to live in. Still, we know not what the future will hold, and it will be interesting to see where Humanity goes regardless of the path it takes to get there.

What do you think of Humanity’s long and storied history with conflict? How do you think cyberwarfare will shape the coming conflicts? Also, what do you think conflict will look like far into the future?

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Heroes From History: Valeria Panlilio

Valeria Panlilio was a spy and guerilla fighter for the Allies during the Second World War. Commonly referred to as “Colonel Yay,” she is considered to have been the brains behind the “Marking Guerillas,” a notorious resistance group in the Philippines which fought against the Japanese occupation during the war. She was born in Denver, Colorado to an Irish-American father and Filipino mother. As an adult, she left the United States and moved to the Philippines to become a journalist. She worked as a news reporter for the Philippines Herald. When the war broke out, she was enlisted as a U.S. intelligence agent for the Allies and fed them information about Japanese movements in the Philippines.

Yay before WWII
Valeria “Yay” Panlilio before WWII

Valeria Panlilio was part of the U.S. military’s S-2 intelligence unit during WWII. She worked as a radio broadcast operator for the KZRH radio station. Her official job at the station was to broadcast Japanese propaganda to support the occupation. Unofficially, she used her position at the radio station to send intelligence reports to the Allies about Axis activity in the Philippines. She would send coded messages detailing Japanese troop movements using the radio station, and she also fed false information to the Japanese intelligence officer at the station about Allied movements. However, the Japanese military would eventually find out someone was feeding the Allies information from the radio station, putting Panlilio in danger of being exposed.

She repeatedly requested the U.S. Army transfer her to the fight in Baatan, but was consistently denied and ordered to remain in Manila to gather intelligence on the occupation there. Eventually, suspicions of her mounted to the point where the Japanese tried to have her arrested. With the threat of her cover being blown, and a desire to get more involved in the fight, Panlilio eventually decided to strike out against the Axis on her own terms. Locals sympathetic to the resistance helped her escape capture and flee into the mountains. There, she joined the Marking Guerillas and began fighting directly on the ground in the Filipino resistance against the Axis. Panlilio became an influential figure in the resistance and even married Marocs Agustin, leader of the Markings.

Panlilio and Agustin
Valeria Panlilio and her husband, Marcos Agustin

In the Markings Guerillas, she was sometimes referred to as “Mammy Yay” due to her vital role. She was second-in-command of the group, handling critical operations involving training of new members, treating the sick and wounded, and coordination of anti-propaganda. Yay created and strategized the dissemination of media to counter the propaganda coming from the Axis-controlled mainstream media during the Japanese occupation. This helped the resistance keep morale up as the Second World War raged on and people began to feel all hope may be lost of ever defeating the Nazis and the Empire of Japan. There were many dark times during WWII when hope for the Allies seemed slim, and it was difficult to keep spirits high.

Panlilio became known as “Colonel Yay” as she also led fighters into combat on the island of Luzon. Female guerilla fighters were referred to as “guerrilleras.” Due to the harsh realities of the Second World War, women across Europe and Asia often had to pick up a rifle and enter the battlefield. From France under Nazi occupation, to the Philippines under Imperial Japanese occupation, men, women, and children were pulled into the fray to stand against the forces of darkness. Panlilio was one of those people pulled into fhe fight during the darkest hours before the dawn when fire and rage threatened to consume all of Humanity.

Yay Panlilio with camera equipment
Yay Panlilio (left) was a journalist and reporter before, during, and after WWII.

She survived the Second World War and eventually returned to the United States to resume her work as a journalist there. She wrote her autobiography, “The Crucible,” and detailed her time as a spy and guerilla warfighter. She was quoted as saying: “It is true women are soft. It is also true that women can be the most bloodthirsty and cruel of creatures. I want to be neither. It is enough to do my duty.” After the Axis powers all surrendered and Panlilio laid down her arms, she returned to civilian life as a hero. She was awarded the United States Medal of Freedom for her service and settled down in New York. Eventually, she passed away in January of 1978.

Heroes like Yay Panlilio remind us of the duty of all humans to be at the ready to stand against the forces of darkness whenever and wherever they arise. I am sure she would have preferred to live her life as a journalist and reporter, informing people about the news in peace without fear of death or capture. However, as humans, we do not always get to choose when we are called upon to serve and protect Humanity from the forces of darkness. Evil always finds a way to rise up again, no matter how many times it is beaten back down. It is the duty of all of us to remain vigilant and at the ready for when we are called to serve in whatever capacity that is required of us. After all, a wise man once said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

What do you think of Valeria “Yay” Panlilio? Have you ever heard of her? Also, what skills do you have that may be of use during a time of crisis? How do you think you would help during Humanity’s darkest hours?

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