I recently saw An American Sniper, the movie about Chris Kyle, the legendary SEAL sniper who was murdered after he returned from his last tour. At the outset, it needs to be said that the language is foul, and the violence, while graphic, is in no way gratuitous. And, I would understand why many would stay away from seeing it for those two reasons.
However, I made myself go, in a way to show my respects to the SEALS amongst whom I lived for 16 months, and especially to Marc Lee, who was the first SEAL to die in Iraq. In the process of writing my book, A Ballad for Baghdad, I got to know Marc Lee’s mom, Debbie, who is what is known as a Gold Star mom, someone who has lost a child in war. While I am not sure that the portrayal of Marc in the movie is very accurate, one thing is absolutely true: Marc had come in from a mission, and did not have to go back out, but he chose to. And, that was his last mission.
American Sniper does the most outstanding job yet of illustrating just what it is that our Special Forces from all the branches of service go through to keep us safe, and the resulting bond that they forge in the process. The spec ops groups have the highest divorce rate amongst our military, in part because that “bond of brothers” at times is stronger than marriage. It takes a special man to be a SEAL, and it takes a special woman to be married to one.
I was reminded once again of my thankfulness for my husband, who somehow knew that as much as I loved being home on leave from Iraq, it was like living my life on a split screen TV. Part of me was wondering how everyone was doing back in the Great Sandbox, and just about the time I would actually start to feel like I was all the way home, it was time to go back. Somehow Steve “got that,” and I believe it was as a result of pure grace. Truly, I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t been able to take it in stride.
There is a saying about war: it either makes you grow together or grow apart. I watched both things happen in Iraq, and how glad I was that Chris and Taya Kyle, while they certainly had difficult struggles, ultimately grew stronger and closer. The tragedy of Chris’s murder is unspeakable, and I hope justice is served. How strange that Chris’s killer is on trial for murder at the same time that the movie that ends with the murder in question is nominated for 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor.
Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of Chris Kyle is seminal, and the depiction of his love for his country and his guys could be one of the finest of his career. I hope he gets the Oscar, if for no other reason than to remind those who would call Kyle a “racist” who “went on killing sprees” that the only reason why they have the freedom to say those kinds of things is because of the very people they are vilifying, men such as Chris Kyle and Marc Lee.
Was An American Sniper rough? Absolutely. I told my family when we went that I needed to sit on the end of the aisle in case I needed to leave. I didn’t know what it would bring up in me, but I was glad that in spite of a number of tears shed, I emerged with my gratitude on fire, and the clear reminder of the caliber of men who are willing to give all for us, whether we appreciate them or not.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner