Army Master Sgt. Daniel A. Brooks recently received a rare honor from the Bavarian state government in Germany for disarming a man who had pulled a knife in a shopping mall.

At a May 2 ceremony, Brooks was awarded the Christophorus Medal, which recognizes first responders and others who have demonstrated an act of heroism or bravery. Stars and Stripes first reported that Brooks is one of just 1,930 to have received the medal since 1983.

Speaking with Task & Purpose on Monday, Brooks said his upbringing drove him to intervene when he faced the armed man surrounded by civilians. Brooks’ father served in the military for 20 years and then spent an additional 22 years in law enforcement.

“I spent a lifetime growing up watching my dad put himself in dangerous situations,” said Brooks, who is a career counselor assigned to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany. “Wanting to follow in his footsteps, I took the same action: joined the Army. I think that’s indicative of our family. I think it’s indicative of the principles that my dad, my mom tried to instill in me: We don’t turn away from things when we notice something wrong – particularly when we’re talking about the preservation of life and being to help somebody that could potentially be hurt.”

On Dec. 16, Brooks was participating in a Christmas event in Bayreuth, Germany that was held in a mall when he noticed a crowd of people were forming, he said.

As Brooks leaned over for a closer look, he spotted a man who looked angry and was moving aggressively.

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Brooks moved closer and realized that the man was about to get into a physical confrontation with someone else. At the time, it looked as if the man was about to address someone dressed as Santa Claus, but Brooks later learned that the man was targeting a woman with whom he was having issues.

“As I moved closer to get a better look, that’s when I noticed the assailant pull a knife around his waist area out of his pocket,” Brooks recalled. “That’s when I just lunged forward and kind and – with my left hand – smacked it away from his right hand, and the knife flew away.”

Once he disarmed the attacker, he called on some of his experiences teaching combatives as a drill sergeant to jump on top of the man and control his arms until mall security arrived.

“Brooks’ response speaks to the courage, conviction, and abilities of the U.S. Army Soldier, while Bavaria’s recognition of his actions speak to the wonderful relationships enjoyed between U.S. service members and the local community here in Europe,” Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for U.S. Army Europe, told Task & Purpose on Monday.

Brooks said he has been assigned to Germany since August 2023, and he is extremely proud to serve with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment.  

His ties to southern Germany extend to his childhood. His mother is originally from Bavaria, and he spent a lot of time in the region as a child when his father was stationed there. Brooks even speaks German with a slight Bavarian accent.

He was honored to learn that he would receive the Christophorus Medal especially after he started researching the award’s symbolism and significance.

“At the ceremony, I had the opportunity to listen to so many others – German first responders, paramedics, police, and just average citizens – that had also done similar acts, and saved people from drowning,” Brooks said. “I think there were two accounts of others that had saved people from knife attacks. I was honored to be with that group, associated with this other group of people that rescued others. It’s an incredible feeling.”

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