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THE GIANT KILLER – A TRUE STORY At 4-foot-9 inches tall weighing a mere 97 pounds Richard J. Flaherty was the smallest and most unconventional man to ever serve in the US military. Flaherty needed a Congressional waver to enlist in the Army as he did not meet the height or weight requirements. Bullied and ridiculed at boot camp, Flaherty nonetheless achieved the kind of stature that’s only dreamed of: He became a Captain in the Green Berets earning the Silver Star, 2 Bronze Stars, and 2 Purple Hearts for his heroics in the Vietnam War. Richard Flaherty grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Stamford, sharing a room in the family's twobedroom home with his older brother, Walter. Their father, Walter Sr., was a salesman and a shipping clerk for Sears, while their mother, Beatrice, worked for a local department store. By the time he graduated from high school, Flaherty was a full three inches shy of five feet — the Army's minimum height — and weighed less than 100 pounds, far lighter than military regulations. But after eating six meals per day and enlisting the help of his local congressman, Flaherty obtained a waiver to enter basic training in fall 1966. He graduated from officer candidate school as a second lieutenant and shipped to Vietnam as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne. In 1967, Flaherty was promoted to platoon leader, and his authority was soon gravely tested. The next April, a group of North Vietnamese soldiers opened fire on his men in the Quang Dien district. But, as vividly detailed in an Army citation, Flaherty knew just what to do. Running out into the spray of bullets, he unleashed a rifle team and launched an attack on an enemy bunker, enabling his men to gain the upper hand. That "extraordinary heroism" earned Flaherty the Silver Star, the military's third-highest award for bravery in combat. He returned home and entered the Army's Special Warfare School, where he graduated into the elite Green Berets. Flaherty then shipped back overseas to Thailand in the fall of 1969, according to military records. By the time he was discharged in 1971, records show Flaherty had earned a Bronze Star, at least two Purple Hearts, a National Defense Service Medal, and a Combat Infantry Badge. He escaped the war with just a few physical injuries, including a small head wound left by a grenade fragment. His mental scars cut deeper, though. Flaherty saw horrible things in combat, he later told mental health counselors. In later years by the end of 1987, Flaherty became homeless and slept beneath a palm tree in Aventura. By all appearances, the former war hero became just another transient. He slept outdoors, bathed in public restrooms, and became a regular at Publix. His life looked simple, if sad. For decades, Flaherty kept to himself.
Although it probably would have gotten him better treatment, he never told cops, store owners, or movie theater employees that he was a decorated vet. He spoke occasionally with his cousin Marlin but grew estranged from his older brother. He had no close friends in Aventura. In 1999, police officer David Yuzuk befriended the homeless Flaherty at the movie theater. The two would meet for coffee or sandwiches and talk about news, jokes, and politics. In all that time Flaherty refused assistance in getting off the streets. In the summer of 2015, Flaherty finally decided to tell Yuzuk his life story, however he warned Yuzuk that asking too many questions could be bad for Yuzuk’s career and dangerous to his own health. Sure enough, 8 hours after Yuzuk made a call to a Federal Agent to confirm Flaherty’s identity, Flaherty was mysteriously killed in a hit-and-run. Just after midnight May 9, 2015, 60-year-old Leslie Socolov was heading home to the 17-story building that towers over the spot where Flaherty slept each night. The 14-year stenographer with the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Homicide Unit was just a block from her condo when her car hit something. For some unknown reason she didn't stop. After Flaherty’s death Yuzuk would embark upon a three-year investigation to uncover the mysteries of Flaherty’s life and death. His journey of discovery would drag him down the rabbit hole of CIA black Ops and the hunt for stolen weapons of mass destruction. Stretching from the bloody jungles of Vietnam to the dangerous streets of Iraq, Cambodia, and Venezuela, all in search of the peripatetic Green Beret Captain Richard J. Flaherty DAVID YUZUK BIOGRAPHY David Yuzuk was a 20-year veteran of the Aventura Police Department and worked as uniformed road patrolman, undercover officer, and detective. David was awarded officer of the month on two separate occasions by his department and was recognized as officer of the month by the Dade County Chief’s Association. In 2014, David cowrote and co-produced his first feature film, "Amidst the Devils Wings” which received international distribution with Indican Pictures. In 2017, he wrote and produced the documentary, "The Giant Killer” based on the life of Richard J. Flaherty. The documentary was awarded The People’s Choice Award in the Silicon Beach Film Festival, Best Film in the UK monthly Film Festival, and was an official selection in the Rome International Film Festival and the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
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