By now I’m sure most people are aware of the movie being released this week produced by Clint Eastwood- American Sniper. I love anything that supports our service men and women, and I love Clint Eastwood in all his “make my day” macho, so naturally I had to check the book out before it hit the silver screen.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Chris Kyle lays out his journey from cowboy to Navy SEAL sniper in an honest, no PC, humorous way that sent me looking for any other books he wrote. He tells his story of joining the Navy and meeting his wife. Going through infamous BUD/S school and Hell Week. He shares stories from his deployments. He goes into detail on some of his missions and many of his kills as a sniper. He also shares his struggles with PTSD later in his career which really struck home for me as a psychiatric nurse. Chris's wife, Taya, wrote several inserts for the newer editions of the book that gave some insight as to what she experienced while her husband was overseas. She gives a well-rounded view of what many military spouses have to face while waiting at home for their loved ones to return. It gave me a new respect and empathy for the military spouses I know. Because of this book, I won’t be so quick to forget them next time I see a news bulletin about the war. They’re seeing the same news reel and worrying their loved ones were involved.
Maybe the biggest thing that I loved about this book was that Kyle pulls absolutely zero punches. None. Nada.
Towards the end of his book, he made one of the most powerful statements I’ve read in a long time: “I have a clear conscience about my role in the war…when I die, God is going to hold me accountable for everything I’ve done on earth…when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of my kills will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die.” And truly, when you read the horrific stories of a toddler being handed a live grenade and told to walk towards our soldiers, a small boy being sent out to drag a rocket launcher back towards the insurgents because they knew our snipers wouldn’t shoot him, or Al-Qaeda using hospitals and churches as hide-outs because they knew soldiers were hesitant to risk the lives of the others in these buildings, you can see the true evil he was referring to.
I can guarantee there will be readers angry about his absolute honesty on a lot of touchy, touchy issues. Personally, I appreciated his candor. He stated blatantly that he, as well as the others in service, are the experts. Not the civilians at home, and certainly not the liberal media. Let brain surgeons operate and the SEALS do their missions is basically the message he sends people who would look over their shoulder and tell them how to do their job.
I didn't realize until I reached the end of the book that Chris Kyle was the SEAL and mentor that was shot and killed by a young soldier he was trying to reach out and help at a shooting range. When I realized America's greatest sniper had died, after reading all the inserts by Taya full of hope and prayers that he would come home so they could grow old together, it made me sit back in shock. I was saddened for the young mother, children, family, and friends he'd left behind.
But I don't think Chris's legacy is necessarily about the kills that he had during his career, although I'm thankful for that part of his life. I think his legacy is about the lives he saved, American and otherwise, during those years overseas.
This book gives a glimpse into the war and military life that most never have the opportunity to see. I would highly recommend it, though due to some aspects, I may not fully recommend this book to very young audiences.
A fair amount of cursing was scattered throughout the book. Also, the book was written by a sniper about his experiences. Obviously due to some thematic elements, this may be a challenging read for anyone who doesn't have a particular proclivity towards blood. This does not mean I don't recommend this book for those people as well. Books such as this and Lone Survivor should be in high school curriculum in my opinion. In a day when school's no longer say the Pledge of Allegiance for fear it would "offend" the spineless in our society, people could use a good dose of backbone found in the pages of Chris Kyle's and Marcus Luttrell's autobiographies. And if it's hard to read, imagine how much more difficult it was for these men to experience.
These are our true American heroes.