Everyone, yet no one. The average guy's need to help others.
Sentinel in Grand Rapids Michigan
I had conducted many hours of research on real life superheroes, or better known as "RLSH" I was fascinated at just how many people across the globe, were taking it upon themselves to adopt code names and "superhero" identities to help others. Many, participate in homeless outreach, neighborhood patrols and other good deed doing. With many interesting articles on many different RLSH personalities from around the world, I stumbled across a RLSH who was from my home town, Grand Rapids Michigan. I was stoked!! I had to meet this guy! What little boy didn't dream of donning a cape, and saving the helpless? I certainly did. It was not easy to finally get an email to locate this guy. He made it very difficult to locate him. I started with his former group, the Michigan Protectors. I met with a few dead ends with former members whom had taken the time, upon realization that was I not looking to mock them, to assist in my conquest to locate Sentinel. I was however, met with suspicious questions such as " what do you want with Sentinel?" "Are you the media?? Police? etc?, Sentinel doesn't do media interviews. (I did discover however, that Sentinel did indeed do one media interview with a local media station in GR, I won't mention which station, but let's just say Jared Werksma had been a former general field reporter with them. This was several years ago. It was titled "Interview with a masked man" I did speak with Jared once I had learned of this interview, and discovered much to Jared's disdain, that his line of set-up (he oddly, gleefully admitted too) questioning of Sentinel did not yield the expected results, or get the planned "rise" out of Sentinel. Jared's line of questioning was met with fact from Sentinel. (I later learned this from Sentinel himself) I wish that I could find the actual broadcast interview. Sentinel did not have a copy of it.
Sentinel, whom I had finally contacted, was very suspicious and incredulous of my "intent" to want to interview him. I provided the information that Sentinel had requested to run my background check. Now keep in mind, I am not a professional reporter, nor a professional writer. I just have a genuine interest in promoting those unconventional types who want to help others, with out expectation of reward, recognition or anything of the like. A well known published author Tea Krulos had already written a book titled "heroes in the night" as well as well known photographer Peter Tangen had already chronicled many of the histories and exploits of the RLSH movement. I noticed as well, and Sentinel pointed out later in this article, that many of the RLSH are doing it to truly help people, alot...are doing it for the attention, facebook likes, media attention (which the media so far, has mostly poked "fun" at the RLSH given the extremes of their movement)
Finally, after almost 2 months, I heard from Sentinel. I was a bit taken aback that Sentinel, during the course of our phone conversation, stated that he had checked me out, verified what I had told him to be my "credentials" for the lack of a better term, and that I was who I said I was. His reply to me was "Good, I'm glad that you're being honest with me, because I did tail you a few times, to verify what you had told me. I know your patterns, movements, place of employment and place of residence. At first I was a little pissed that he had that much information, however, Sentinel assured me that it was for his verification and protection. I couldn't argue with that logic. His reasoning to me "You sought ME out, I had to be sure that you have no bad intent. Fair enough, I replied.
Sentinel arranged the place, and time of our meeting. Seems he mostly operates at night "bad guys do their best work at night" he later told me, after I inquired as to why. I did check my watch nervously a few times, waiting for him to arrive. I will admit, Grand Rapids has a spectacular view at night, with the lights, noise, (it was a cool spring evening) sounds etc...I can see why he likes to be out at night. Deep in my own thoughts, I about shit my pants when I looked up from checking my watch for the 5th time, and Sentinel was right in front of me. JESUS!!! I damn near screamed like a girl LoL (I hate using LOL's, but it was a very relieved, thank god I'm not DEAD sort of scream. "You scared the shit out of me" I stammered! Sentinel smirked and replied "element of surprise, you should be a bit more aware of your surroundings, especially at night. Lesson learned. Let's get on with this "interview" I have work to do. We shook hands, he has one hell of a firm grip. He looked pretty intimidating. He was wearing a helmet with a black brim, what appeared to be a tactical jacket, the "S" logo on the right side of his jacket, what appeared to be black tactical pants, with drop leg platforms on both sides, and the coolest part, he had an all black shield on his back! A shield!! How cool is that?? He was (as he later shared) wearing amber lens tactical goggles (better night vision he stated) He was pretty tall. I am 5' 9" (on my tip toes) pretty good sized guy. He had a very non descript , flat affect voice. He struck me as calm and reassuring. I can see why he would scare the hell out of a criminal. Seeing this guy come out of nowhere in the dark would scare anyone.
He was no BS and right to the point. I admired that. I did attempt to stammer out a few typical questions "why do you do this?" "what type of training do you have?" "Are you a former cop?, Military?, CIA?, TSA? (I actually asked him that, I'm such an idiot) why do you do this? etc etc..so on, and so forth
Sentinel was very frank in his answers. Blunt, no BS, and told me that he has given up what "polite society" as he described it, a lot. He gave examples. Marriage, friends, relationships that were basically superficial, a social life, in his "civilian identity" as he called it. Sentinel stated, he does work within the law, realizes that at any time, his "illegal activity" (Being a "vigilante"" could end at any time if..he is caught and his identity exposed. He further explained, that he only intervenes when police could not arrive in time to actually do any thing, other than contain, investigate and "mop up the mess" as Sentinel stated that "Police, do not prevent crime, they only investigate it after the fact" I again, cannot argue that logic. Sentinel stated that he has a pretty "normal" life like the rest of us. He has a job, interests, friends, etc....but, that in his "civilian identity" (he used that phrase a lot) that most of his activity is training, equipment upgrades, recon work, crime mapping, crime patterns, and proactive patrols. Sentinel stated "you would not believe what I see, encounter, intervene during my patrols. I see the worst in humanity, and the best. I see the horrible, sick, filthy, vile, evil things people are capable of, and doing to each other. Zero empathy, no compassion. It's almost mindless. How do you "rehab" that? Evil is evil. Drugs, robberies, property damage for kicks, brutal beatings, human trafficking, the homeless being the worst victims. People already at their lowest, being robbed, beaten, etc. I even see police running homeless out their places to sleep. We live in a world where you can be arrested for feeding the homeless, protesting a corrupt authority, disagreeing with the current political climate. There is rampant corruption in police departments, and other law enforcement agencies. I firmly believe that one man CAN make a difference sadly, society is a wreck.
We talked for another hour or so. Sentinel revealed nothing to me that would give me any indication of who he is. But, I now know WHY he does what he does. The "interview" turned into more of a life lesson for me. I learned a lot from Sentinel. My final question to him again, was why do you do this? "When I was younger, I had the shit kicked out of me by 4 men, for $11, and my coat. I suffered a broken jaw, concussion, cuts, bruises, a minor stab wound and the complete and utter humiliation of being so helpless and scared that there was nothing that I could do, if those pieces of shit, wanted to end my life. I was a small, geeky kid, bulled a lot. After that, I had a small flame go off inside of my brain, that I would never again, feel that helplessness, fear, and utter despair. I did a complete 180, and trained, studied, learned brutal fighting techniques, and I learned a lot about myself. I have ZERO tolerance for one person hurting another for mere money, property, sick kicks or any other reason. Once the "bad guys" know you have no fear of them, they have no more power!. No one else will suffer what I did as long as I am breathing, and physically able to do this. Even after that, I will continue to fight evil in the ways that matter as well. I am fond of the saying "fight apathy, or don't!!! I asked him how long he had been doing this "hero" thing, he replied "I am no hero, I am just a guy doing the right thing. I do not want recognition, media coverage, labels, titles or anything like that. I have been doing this longer than most other RLSH have been been alive, he replied. "I really do not like the term RLSH" Sentinel added "I prefer to just stay anonymous and keep a low profile. I discovered as well, that I had unintentionally started this whole "RLSH" movement. Apparently I had inspired others to do what I had been doing. I did not learn that until years later, where I was still thinking that I was the only one doing this" as I really never gave it a second though that anyone else would be "crazy" enough to do what I had been doing. Whether the RLSH community acknowledges that, I cannot say, but it all points to me being the starting point. It's easy to sit in the comfort and safety of your home, listen to the biased media tell you what to do, how to think etc. Get off of your butt, volunteer, be active in helping others. A person does not need a "reason" to help others. Knowledge is more powerful than fear! The violent criminals, the predators, the bad people who hurt and take advantage of others are the true cowards. Like predators in the animal kingdom, they will seek out the weakest and most helpless, because they will not put up much of a fight. Same goes for humans. The same goes for the gangs in Grand Rapids. Why do you think they run / function in packs? They use numbers, fear, intimidation and other brutal methods to instill fear and control. That is why I target gang activity more so. They, fear what they do not understand, can control or intimidate.
Thanks Sentinel. Keep up the good fight my friend!