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I just couldn’t help but feel sad as I read “American Sniper,” the autobiography of recently slain Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.
He survived multiple deployments to Iraq, spending the majority of his time in the thick of battle, only to be killed by a man he was trying to help after returning home.
The only silver lining to the tragedy is that it happened after his departure from the Navy and war, so that he had several years to rebuild family relationships that fell by the wayside while he served his country. But still. Sad. military history, with more than 150 confirmed kills during his four deployments. The true number may be even higher.
He humbly attributes this distinction to a wealth of opportunity and luck. Whatever it was, the insurgents saw fit to place a bounty on his head and give him the nickname al Shaitan Ramadi, the Devil of Ramadi. Not too shabby a legacy in the war on terror.
Kyle was clearly not a man to mince words, which made reading “American Sniper,” written before his death, a little uncomfortable at times.
I don’t think I have illusions about what war is, and I fully understand that those in combat positions are trained for a very specific job that can really only be carried out in war. But, initially, the realization that Kyle had no reservations about his job, or the fact that he was so good at it, was a little unsettling.
He also displayed no concern for the non insurgent Iraqi people. America, and the protection of her people, was his sole force and motivation. He was not there to set Iraqi’s free, but to make sure the terrorists never made their way to American shores.
The book is very informally written, which makes you feel like you’re truly hearing Kyle’s voice in the stories almost as though you’re sitting with him in a room as he shares his experiences with you. And he shares very matter of factly.
The best an account of war can hope to accomplish is to remind readers that you can’t ever really wrap your mind around what it’s like for those on the ground, because you can never know or really get it until you live it. And Kyle hits his mark there.
Time and time again, they were in dangerous situations, and all I could think with each page of battle was that it all seemed unreal, like a movie. And that thought was quickly followed by the realization that everything was very real, and I just couldn’t fully comprehend a reality like that.
I don’t imagine that most people want to know what a single firefight is like, yet these men actively hoped for these situations so they could take down evil. They were willing to sacrifice their bodies, minds and sometimes lives, for each other and for America.
Though he passionately loved what he did, Kyle never romanticizes the life of a SEAL and the impact war had on him and his family.
Throughout the book, his wife, Taya, shares brief thoughts on what life is like for the family of a SEAL. The couple also openly shares the very rough patches they went through, and their honesty adds greatly to the authenticity of Kyle’s story.
And authenticity seems to be what Kyle was all about. He was a man of conviction who believed in doing his part, whether that was protecting fellow servicemen in war with his sniper rifle or the variety of efforts he made to help and support veterans after he left the Navy.
Simply reading “American Sniper” felt like a way to honor Kyle specifically, and all troops in general, for their service, while reminding us to remember and do our part.