Richard J. Flaherty was a Special Forces Green Beret Captain and was awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts for his actions in Vietnam. But when Miami police officer David Yuzuk meets Flaherty, he’s in his fifties and living alone as a homeless person. Over the next fifteen years, they would swap stories, as Flaherty began to talk about his experiences in Vietnam and afterward. In May 2015, Flaherty was killed in a hit-and-run, only days after revealing to Yuzuk that his life was veiled in secrecy. In The Giant Killer, Yuzuk seeks to share Flaherty’s story and uncover the secrets surrounding his life.
The documentary looks into Flaherty’s military service through records and interviews with soldiers he served with, and with soldiers aware of situations like his (including Kris Paronto from the real-life events which became Jerry Bruckheimer’s film 13 Hours). It examines the missions he served after his time in Vietnam, and considers what Flaherty might have done in governmental or private sectors as a man with a specific set of skills. With some humanizing effect, it also shows the way this ice-cold soldier interacted with friends and family. And in the final chapter, it investigates how the accident that killed Flaherty might actually happened.
While I am not a regular documentary watcher, I saw the teaser trailer for The Giant Killer and found it captivating. Watching the full-length story, and hearing the way that Puzuk cared for this veteran left homeless and alone, it makes it even more apparent that the problems facing our veterans our systemic. Not every veteran will have the degree of stories and adventures that Flaherty has, but every veteran has given something of themselves to protect the country. How are we honoring that? Are they simply disappearing into the night crossing a street, hit by a vehicle, and forgotten?
It’s abundantly clear from the way that Flaherty is spoken about by the police and fire officers who are interviewed, and it reminds us of the way that everyone makes an impact. Regardless of size, or stature, or status, everyone counts – or no one does.