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The Heart of a Flying Tiger

The Heart of a Flying Tiger

By: Michael S. Hatfield
June 8, 2015

While reclining in a comfortable chair in the birthing lounge awaiting the arrival of grand-daughter baby A, the awesome sound of the baby’s life-giving heartbeat filled the room. I closed my eyes and considered the miracle of life as seen looking at the eyes of the baby, just yesterday, through use of advanced ultrasound technology.

It was easy enough to reflect on how wonderful the beginning of life truly is, but at the same time realize just how totally dependent a baby is on its mother—who can become a very fierce tiger if you threaten her offspring. My mind continued to drift farther away to people who are unable to defend themselves against harm from external ruffians and ruthless enemies.

A few weeks back while looking at real estate, the need for a “pit stop” facilitated a quick drop-in to a local McDonald’s. It is ironic how the darndest thing may bring forth an unforeseen opportunity. Today revealed such an astonishing event.

After personal business was complete and as I was rushing from the restaurant like a first responder to a fire, out of the corner of my eye I noticed an elderly gentleman sitting quietly enjoying his meal. This sight was not so much remarkable, but what was remarkable and drew my attention was the writing on the ball cap he was wearing.

My gradual realization of the stature of this man began with the “Flying Tiger” emblem and, more noteworthy, the “Founder” imprinted on the bill of his hat. The revelation came to me in slow motion: Flying Tigers…Founder…elderly, it all came together in a heartbeat. I was looking directly at a genuine first class hero.

His hair was gray, but still surprisingly full at his advanced age. He sat with an air of confidence of a man who has “just about seen it all.” A stubble or two left on his face where he had missed in the morning’s shave, his blue eyes were as striking and clear as they were friendly. When I thanked him for his service and offered to pay for his lunch, a smile broke out on his face that betrayed a true kind spirit of heart.

I introduced myself as a fellow pilot, and upon introduction to “LC,” we spoke awhile of the P40 fighter in which he flew missions over the China Hump during World War II. For a moment, I could tell his mind had drifted back to a time in his life when he was “hanging it all out” protecting defenseless Chinese farmers and villagers.

LC and I spoke about another Flying Tiger fighter pilot, “TC,” a friend and supporter of yours truly who passed away only a few years ago. As it turned out, LC actually flew with TC way back then in his American Volunteer Group. Amazingly, right on down to TC’s pencil mustache, he could accurately describe my friend TC in detail.

LC’s words touched on the defenseless nature of the villagers on the ground, and how exposed they were to the relentless Japanese Zeros that strafed them, killing many. He confirmed a rumor about a cloth patch that Chinese villagers had sewed onto the backs of flight jackets belonging to members of the Flying Tigers–the patch that read, “Whoever finds this man needing help, hide him and care for him with your life as he is a friend and protector of our villagers.” Or, something like that.

In my book anyone who risks his life protecting others–especially others who are virtually defenseless against a formidable and ruthless enemy, are worthy of appreciation and admiration.

For even a grown up at times can find himself caught up and defenseless against life’s ruthless forces and may need help from others–like a baby in the womb, a person less fortunate, a farmer in a small village in China a very long time ago.

Hearing the labored sound of a baby’s first cry, I opened my eyes and my heart skipped a beat as I became excited about the miracle of little baby A. Excited, however concerned as I watched enthusiastically baby taking her first breath and looking around trustingly at her exciting new world.

She, as dependent now as she was in the womb, will require help and support until she can make it all on her own. But, really now, do any of us ever make it entirely all on our own?

I think not, but keep the faith. We have life’s heroes with hearts of tigers, people like mothers, fathers, and fighter pilots like LC to lend guiding hands. All are Angels.

Michael Hatfield enjoys working with quality clients as a Real Estate Broker with RE/MAX Accord in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. He has a passion for working with people and delights in applying past experience as a Home Builder, Developer, and former Company President and CEO to the real estate goals of his clients.

Michael served as a Captain and FAA Designated Lead Check Pilot for one of the nations largest Domestic and International Passenger Airlines. He has authored numerous articles on Airline and Real Estate matters, and has been featured on Radio Talk Shows and in Seminars.

He may be reached at (925) 322-7775 or at His offices are in Danville, California in the San Francisco Bay Area.