Showing posts with label ESU. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ESU. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Uncommon Valor II - Challenge Coins of the NYPD Emergency Service Unit

Back in the summer of 2015, just as I was getting ready to publish: Uncommon Valor - Insignia of the NYPD Emergency Service Unit, the collecting world erupted with a new area: Challenge Coins. At the time I questioned whether I should be the book on hold and include this field, but the more I researched, the more I realized that I would need a lot more time.

I had already invested five years into the cloth insignia history, so I decided to publish that book and then devote the necessary time to properly investigating the coin phenomena. To give you an idea of just how quickly coin fever has gripped the hobby, consider that my first book documented nearly a century of ESU insignia history and comprised roughly 130 pages. This follow-up is nearly the same page count, but only goes back to the late 1990's, when the first ESU coin came out.

Like the first book, this has been a labor of love. At times it felt like I was investigating some deep, dark mystery and at other times banging my head against the desk seemed like a completely acceptable option. In the end it didn't take five years, but it did take almost two.

As much as I love writing these books on ESU, I realize that I much rather write fiction. It is much simpler to create stories in your head, as opposed to conducting research. In the field of non-fiction you only get one chance at being right.

Fortunately, the hard work has paid off and now I add another new book to the catalog. If you are interested in the NYPD ESU or challenge coins, I believe you will thoroughly enjoy this book. It contains over 100 photographs and offers collectors a glimpse at some of the rarest challenge coins produced by the various Trucks and Specialty Units, many of which have never been seen before.

I want to extend my sincere thanks to those members of ESU who afforded me the opportunity to ask innumerable questions and who provided photos of their coins. You are truly the Finest of the Finest.

It is amazing to me, as I submit the file for printing, that this will be my ninth book. It seems like only yesterday that I was holding Perfect Pawn in my hands for the first time. Now it is time to put my non-fiction endeavors to bed for awhile, as I take back up the further adventures of James and Alex.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen Years Later – Remembering the Attacks of September 11th

I got up, just like I do every September 11th, and looked outside.

I like rainy days, over cast days, hot days, cloudy days, hazy days, every day other than the one I that is forever seared into my brain.

I got up this morning early, before the sun had come up, and stepped outside. Fifteen years ago I did the same thing, heading out of the house before the sun had come up to do my tour of duty as a city-election supervisor for the NYPD. That morning the air was cool and crisp, a nice respite from the dog days of summer we had just gone through.

As the sun came up over Brooklyn, the darkness was chased away by shades of gold, and red and orange. The rising sun turned the once black sky into a majestic blue, unmarred by any clouds. It was a rich shade of blue that I will never forget, a color that looked as if it had been pulled directly from God’s pallet.

Had I seen it before? Probably, but before September 11th it meant nothing. Now, I will take the image to my grave.

So it was with trepidation that I stepped outside, feeling the coolness of the air. As I grudgingly watched, sipping my coffee, the sky once again began its transformation, chasing away the blackness. As the sun took hold, the dew on the blades of grass were transformed in to a field of sparking diamonds. Off in the distance the fog rolled across the tops of the corn fields. It was a scene that, on 364 other days, would be breathtaking in its scope and beauty. But this was day 365.

As I watched the sun rise, the sky once again has turned blue and, try as I might, I can’t find a single cloud in the sky.

As I write this, I watch the clock, ticking off in my head mentally where I was on that fateful morning. My travels will take my partner and I through the streets of Brooklyn to the hell that was Manhattan on the morning of September 11th. Our conversation will go from typical morning banter, laughs as we search for the elusive ‘Vote Here – Aqui’ signs, which signaled our latest election poll target, to hearing the first calls over our portable radio, and, after realizing we had been attacked, heading in to Ground Zero, unaware of what we would face when we arrived and saying goodbye to one another, just in case.

In just under a half hour from now the 1st plane will have struck the North Tower….. and so the memories will all come flooding back.

My partner and I were lucky that day. We were spared the fate that so many others faced, due in no small part to an elusive pack of cigarettes.

Today I mourn for my friends, co-workers, and all those lost, not just at the World Trade Center, but at the Pentagon and in the skies above Pennsylvania as well. I remember the bravery that came through in the days and months after the attack; my heart beaming with pride just because I was lucky enough that God choose me to be a member of the greatest police department in the world, the NYPD.  And I will forever carry in my heart and mind the Department motto: Fidelis Ad Mortem (Faithful Unto Death)

But I also mourn for those who died on the other September 11th Attack.  And just as I will not forget the names of Moira Smith, John Coughlin, Joe Vigiano, Rodney Gillis and all the other members of the NYPD who died that day, I will also not forget the names: Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Ty Woods and Glen Doherty. Nor will I forget those who, laying aside everything else, rushed in to save them, accepting that it might be their last day as well.

Those of us who survive such things are torch bearers for the real heroes, the men and women who selflessly gave their lives for their fellow man. We must never forget them and we must never let their deaths be in vein.

So, today I will mourn, as I do every September 11th. I will thank God for saving me and my partner that day, thank him for having given me the opportunity to be a part of something so much greater than myself and to be able to share my story, so that the true heroes are never forgotten. On November 8th, 2016, I will honor those lost in Benghazi, making sure that they are Never Forgotten.

Someone recently asked me if I thought we had learned anything from the attack. Sadly, the answer to that question is a resounding no. Just like the warnings, the lessons are all there, we have just ignorantly closed the book. Blithely choosing to bury our heads in the sands of political correctness; believing that the old Beatles song ‘Love Is All You Need’ is the answer to all our ills. It isn’t. You don’t have to agree with me, but my opinions are based on cold hard fact, not fiction or personal desires.

God bless you all and may God bless America.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Uncommon Valor – Insignia of the NYPD Emergency Service Unit

As you know, since retiring from the NYPD I have written four mystery / suspense books and a fifth one currently in the editing process. What you might not know is that, since 1985, I have also been an avid collector of NYPD items. In addition to actively collecting, I also enjoy the history of the Department, especially as it pertains to the cloth insignia.
In 2011, I was provided with a photograph that showed the nine original applicants for the NYPD’s Aviation Bureau. As I examined the photograph I was astounded at what I saw. In that black and white photo, appeared to be the hood cowling from an ESU truck, nearly a year before the Emergency Service Division was created. What ensued was an exhaustive research project that would cover the entire spectrum of the insignia of ESU, including the pre-merger NYC Housing and Transit Emergency Units.

This 147 page book provides well over two hundred color photos that chronicle a behind the scenes look at not only the history, but the patches worn by this elite unit. It is a must have for any insignia collector or anyone just interested in the NYPD or ESU.

I spent years uncovering the stories behind the patches. From the very first patch, depicted in that original Aviation photo, to the most current issued one. In many instances I had the privilege of speaking to the officers and original graphic designers about their work. I even obtained some first run artwork, to show the progression from graphic proof, to finished product. It was a process filled with both frustration and exhilaration, often at the same time, as each new discovery unearthed even more questions.

When the decision finally came to publish this book, I was faced with a difficult dilemma. I could choose to go the route of most other research books, producing it in black and white or go for full color. After toying with the concept, and doing several pages in black and white, the choice was clear. After all the hard work that went into creating it, it needed to be done in color. This has affected the cost, but I truly believe that, in the end, it was the only way to do justice to this important subject. It is the book that I would want for my collection and I hope that you will agree.

While the E-Book is currently available through Kindle, the print version should be released within the next few weeks.

After all this time, I am proud to present to you the culmination of my work: Uncommon Valor – Insignia of the NYPD Emergency Service Unit.

Monday, March 9, 2015

So you think you understand the Middle East?

Good for you, because I can tell you that many people don’t. What is funny to me is that a lot of people, who don’t understand the dynamics that are involved, are very happy to tell you what is going on.

Most of the time I just shake my head and walk away, there’s simply no point in arguing with folks who get there news delivered in talking point format. If you think that the current state of affairs in the Middle East can be summed up in 140 characters or less, you need to spend more time in a book!

One of the central themes of my last two books, Queen’s Gambit and Bishop’s Gate, is the very real threat of terrorism that we face. If you watch the news, you might not truly understand the complexities of what is going on. So I thought a bit of a refresher course would be in order. Please, understand that this is an introductory look at the subject and is in no means meant to be construed as comprehensive.

The Middle East, like Ireland, is complex and should be studied at length.

For the purposes of this we are going to look at things beginning in the early 1900’s. At the time, the Ottoman Empire controlled the Middle East, this would soon come to an end thanks to WW I. By 1917, the British Empire had made three different agreements with three different groups promising three different political futures for the Arab world. The Arabs insisted they still get their Arab kingdom that was promised to them through Sharif Hussein (McMahon-Hussein Correspondence). The French and British expected to divide up that same land among themselves (Sykes-Picot Agreement). And the Zionists expected to be given Palestine as promised by the Foreign Secretary for Britain (Balfour Declaration). 

As you can see, things were not off to a good start from the beginning.

After the war, the League of Nations (the forerunner to the United Nations) was created and one of its roles was to divide up the conquered Ottoman land. It was the League who ‘created’ the Arab world we know today. The borders were drawn arbitrarily, without any regard for the people living there. No consideration was given to ethnic, geographic, or religious issues. These lands were supposed to be ruled by the British or French until such time as they were able to stand alone. The differences between Iraqis, Syrians, Jordanians, etc. were entirely created, as a method of dividing the Arabs against each other. 

The situation in Palestine was even worse. The British government created the British Mandate of Palestine and allowed the Zionists to settle there. However, they set limitations on the number, because they did not want to anger the Arabs already living there. This condition continued to fester until 1947 when the United Nations dissolved the British Mandate of Palestine and created a partition plan for Palestine. Under this resolution it required the withdrawal of the British Empire and created independent Arab and Jewish States. It also established the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem.

Of course the plan was accepted by the Jewish people and rejected by the Arabs. Immediately after the resolution passed, civil war broke out.

Recently I heard a college educated woman say that the Jews came in and stole the land from the Palestinians. Here is a news flash; the Jewish people have lived in this area since 2500 BC. The ‘nation’ of Palestine is a modern creation.

While the U.N. resolution passed, it was not without issues. Every Arab nation voted against it. Here are some examples of the sentiment that existed:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Said, said: "We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every place the Jews seek shelter in". He also called for ‘severe measures’ to be taken against all Jews in Arab countries.

General Secretary of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, said: “Personally I hope the Jews do not force us into this war because it will be a war of elimination and it will be a dangerous massacre which history will record similarly to the Mongol massacre or the wars of the Crusades."

Egyptian King Farouk said that in the long run the Arabs would soundly defeat the Jews and “drive them out of Palestine.”

So, despite the creation of five Arab states (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Jordan), the Arab world still demand the creation of an Arab Palestine state. Clearly, they had drawn the famous ‘line in the sand.’

After the resolution passed, the surrounding Arab states, Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq and Syria invaded what had just ceased to be Mandatory Palestine. They immediately attacked Israeli forces and several Jewish settlements. During the civil war, the Jewish and Arab communities of Palestine clashed (the latter supported by the Arab Liberation Army) while the British, who had the obligation to maintain order, organized their withdrawal and intervened only on an occasional basis. The conflict then turned into what is known as the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

The one year conflict triggered significant demographic changes throughout the Middle East. Around 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from the area that became Israel and they became Palestinian refugees. In the three years following the war, about 700,000 Jews immigrated to Israel with one third of them having fled, or having been expelled, from their previous countries of residence in the Middle East.

Despite what many believed would be a one-sided battle, the Jewish people did not get the memo. They fought as if their very lives depended on it, and it did. In the end, not only had the Jewish people retained the area that the UN General Assembly Resolution (#181) had recommended for the proposed Jewish state, but they also took control of almost 60% of the area allocated for the proposed Arab state.

So there you have the ‘basic’ primer for the problems between the Arabs and the nation of Israel.

Now, you would think that would be enough, but you would be wrong. You see, when they turn their attention away from Israel, they seem to be inclined to have issues with one another as well.

Iran – The current make-up of Iran is much different than it was. Following WWII the country was led by the Shah of Iran. However, the oil crisis of the 70’s created an economic recession which led to the Islamic revolution in 1979. The new regime proceeded to storm and occupy the US Embassy in Tehran in what is known as the Iran Hostage Crisis from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981. The current regime is a theocracy, under the rule of the country’s supreme religious leader, the Ayatollah. Iran is a predominantly Shia Islam country. This toppling of the Shah led to concerns in Iraq, that its new Shia neighbor might be a problem.

Iraq – This country has known nothing but turmoil since it was a British mandate. From WWI to the 60’s, the country was in a constant state of flux, with one coup d’état after another. Then, in 1979, Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, ascended to the top slot. Hussein initially welcomed the overthrow of the Shah in Iran and sought to establish good relations with the Ayatollah Khomeini's new government. Khomeini had other ideas. He openly called for the spread of the Islamic Revolution to Iraq and took to arming Shiite and Kurdish rebels against Saddam's regime and sponsoring assassination attempts on senior Iraqi officials. This led to a series of military conflicts between the two countries, including the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction, throughout the 80’s.

When Saddam Hussein was ousted from power Iran began to make its in-roads. They actively engaged against US military forces, providing some of the most lethal IED’s encountered.  The current Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, is a Shia Muslim, and is enjoying a new relationship with Iran, including military assistance in fighting ISIS.

Lebanon – Has also experienced upheaval since its inception. When they went to war against Israel, 100,000 Palestinian refugees fled to the country because of the war. Israel did not permit their return after the cease-fire. With the defeat of the PLO in Jordan, many Palestinian militants relocated to Lebanon, increasing their armed campaign against Israel. The relocation of Palestinian bases also led to increasing sectarian tensions between Palestinians and the Christian Maronite’s as well as other Lebanese factions. In 1975, following increasing sectarian violence, civil war broke out in Lebanon. It pitted a coalition of Christian groups against the joint forces of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), left-wing Druze and Muslim militias. In June 1976 Syria sent in its own troops, ostensibly to restore peace.

In 1982, the continued PLO attacks from Lebanon on Israel led to an Israeli invasion. A multinational peacekeeping force of American, French and Italian military units, joined in 1983 by a British contingent, were deployed in Beirut, after the Israeli siege of the city, to supervise the evacuation of the PLO. In 1983, following the Beirut bombing, the peacekeeping forces withdrew. Lebanon continues to be used a launching spot for rocket attacks by Hezbollah on Israel. Hezbollah is a Lebanon based terrorist organization that has become a major political payer in Lebanon. It was conceived by Muslim clerics and funded by Iran. Its leaders were followers of Ayatollah Khomeini, and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of 1,500 Iranian Revolutionary Guards that arrived from Iran with permission from the Syrian government.

Syria – Is another country that has known nothing but upheaval since it was a French mandate. From WWI to the 60’s, the country was in a constant state of political turmoil. After the Suez Canal Crisis, Syria signed a pact with the Soviet Union. This gave the Soviets a foothold for Communist influence within the government, in exchange for military equipment. This caused considerable unease in their neighbor to the north, Turkey. While the current president, Bashar al-Assad, is an Alawite Muslim, he has close ties to the Iranian regime. Iran sees the survival of the Syrian government as being crucial to its regional interests. Syria provides a crucial thoroughfare to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran see’s al-Assad's Alawite minority led government being a crucial buffer against the influence of Saudi Arabia and the United States. In the on-going conflict in Syria, Iran has provided enormous military resources, including strategic assistance, from its vaunted Qods force in the fight against the rebels, of whom ISIS is a large part. ISIS (or ISIL, or IS) is a Salafi Islamic group fighting to impose a global Islamic caliphate. Many believe that the group’s roots are founded in the Muslim Brotherhood. It adheres to global jihadist principles and follows the hardline ideology of al-Qaeda, whom they separated from in 2014. 

Have you noticed the one compelling and underlying issue among all of this? Yes, Religion.

The other issue is Iran. Since 1979 they have been at the forefront of sowing the seeds of discontent. They have been slow and methodical, playing a game of chess and moving their pieces with a keen tactical mind. The threat posed by a potential nuclear Iran is almost unimaginable. I don’t get the warm and fuzzies thinking about a nuclear powered Iran and I am sure that Israel feels the same way. Iran has been adamant that they want Israel gone. This is not an ‘old’ Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threat. The new Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, said in an interview that: "Israel is a wound on the body of the world of Islam that must be destroyed."

Also, if I hear one more person say that Iran needs it for ‘energy’, I think I’ll scream. Iran holds the world's fourth-largest crude oil reserves and the world's second-largest natural gas reserves. Instead of pursuing nuclear energy, made they should abandon that route and have the sanctions lifted, which would allow them to better pursue these energy ventures.

Like I said, this is only a basic primer, to show you that the issues are much more complex than some will say. Religion drives the majority of conflicts, whether it is directed at Israel or whether it is direct at internal sectarian issues. The folks in D.C. may be loathed to say it, but it is a religious war we are dealing with. It always has been and we won’t do ourselves any favors by pretending it isn’t. The conflict between Arab and Jew dates back four thousand years

So the next time you’re watching the news, and you hear some talking head say that in order to fix the problems we must look at the socio-economic issues, turn it off and go pick up a book.