American Sniper

by Mike Ratliff

I had planned on reading Chris Kyle’s book Amercian Sniper from the moment I became aware that Clint Eastwood was working on a project to make it into a movie. I had seen Chris Kyle on various television shows prior to his murder and I, being a U.S. Navy veteran from the Vietnam era, really appreciated him and how he poured himself into his work of helping other returning veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan “wars” who suffered from both physical and mental issues. PTSD is something I have dealt with myself on a much smaller scale after the Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995. I can only imagine what combat veterans go through.

I watched the movie “American Sniper” last night with my daughter, my sister-in-law, and nephew at a local movie theater. It was a large auditorium and it was packed. Let me say that this is the first movie I have ever been to in which everyone sat through to the end of the credits.

Those left-wing elitists who have issues with this movie either have not really seen it or they really don’t care about those individual soldiers, Marines, and sailors who have had their lives permanently altered by the insanity of a war with no real goal other than to hunt down individuals or groups while willingly giving back the ground to the enemy which had been won by the lives and blood with much suffering of young men serving their country.

The story of Chris Kyle in the movie American Sniper is autobiographical, but since it covers several years there was no way to tell the whole story so we only get to see certain critical points. We see Chris as a young boy hunting with his father and as the older brother taking up for his younger brother in the playground at school when a bully attacks him. We see their father instilling into Chris the values of being one who protects his family against evil, but is never the bully. We see that in how he lives out his life.

When terrorism against the United States becomes a prevalent part of reality in the news, Chris gives up his rodeo “career,” which has become increasingly meaningless to him, to join the Navy. His recruiter takes one look at him and suggests that he become a SEAL. U.S. Navy Seals are somewhat equivalent to the U.S. Army’s Delta Force. They are highly trained, highly skilled, and are in incredible physical condition. When I was nearing the end of my Navy boot camp training in 1973 my company commander suggested I opt out of my slot in Data Processing school and volunteer for B.U.D.S.

I definitely considered it. The Seal recruiter who came to our company selected about half dozen of us and told us that we were what they were looking for but the wash out rate at that time was about 80% during B.U.D.S. I considered that and went to Data Processing training. Chris Kyle went right through with no issue. I often wonder if I made the right decision…

After Chris Kyle graduates from B.U.D.S. he is selected for a specialty, because of his marksmanship skills, and becomes a sniper. He meets his girlfriend/future wife in a bar and they get married after the September 9th, 2001 terrorist attack. His first deployment to Iraq takes place right after that.

We see what being a sniper is like through the eyes of Chris Kyle. His job is to protect columns of Marines moving through a city. He is like a watchdog. He sits up high looking through his scope looking for what is out of place, looking for threats. However, if he spots a threat he must get clearance before taking the shot. If he hits and kills the wrong target he could get charged and convicted and sent the military prison in Leavenworth. However, many times when he checks for clearance they tell him to take the shot, it’s his own call, putting the responsibility totally on him.

After 4 tours in Iraq his marriage is on shaky ground, the U.S. Navy has credited him with over 160 confirmed kills. He has a nickname throughout the U.S. military as “The Legend.” He is “on” when in combat, but when is rotated back to the U.S. he cannot turn it off. His level of PTSD is at the max.

He is done. There will be no more tours. He is at a barbeque and he freaks out as he overreacts to a dog playing with a child. His wife demands that he seek help. He ends up at the VA talking with a counselor. This is where the loop is closed. We find out that the motivation for what makes him so effective as a sniper is that he does his job in such a way that his goal is to bring back all of those he is protecting. However, he fails, as this is impossible. This tears him up inside. The counselor asks him if he would like to help some others come home. He agrees and he takes him into the wounded warrior area of the hospital and so begins the part of his life where he both gives of himself to those suffering both physically and mentally in ways most of us know nothing about and from that, he is also healed.

From this his marriage and relationship with all those around him is healed. The movie ends with him going to one of these encounters with the very disturbed young man who ends up killing him.

Then the credits roll and no one leaves the auditorium until they are done because as they roll they are interspersed with pictures of the memorial service for Kyle and of his funeral.

I wept several times during this movie and if you go see it I am sure you will as well. I also suggest that those who have issues with this movie have not really seen it.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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