It was another spontaneous dinner and a movie evening and American Sniper was the movie of choice following a big feast of crab legs and clams. I had no desire to see this movie initially. Frankly, I did not know what it was about. What I did know was that Bradley Cooper, my latest on screen crush was the star…but even after knowing that, I still had no desire to see it.
I was originally misled by the title of the film. When I think of the word “sniper”, my mind doesn’t particularly go to war images. The word brings back memories of the Beltway Sniper Attacks of 2002. Two men with sniper rifles murdered ten innocent people, who were just going about their normal day. These men’s actions were classified as “psychopathic”. The events made me scared to go to the gas station or go anywhere near the D.C. area. The two men were caught, put in prison and eventually executed. I didn’t know two much about the men, only that they had a military background; therefore, I was expecting this to be another story of psychopathy. It somewhat was, but it had no correlation with the Beltway Sniper Attacks.The story was actually about heroism, courage and bravery.
Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle, a former rodeo rider that chose to fight for his country by joining the Navy Seals. Chris Kyle served four tours in Iraq and became to be known as The Legend for his sharp shooting sniper skills. I will not go into his confirmed kills or the bounty placed on his head by the Iraqi insurgents, but what I will talk about is his amazing story and spirit.
I was never a fan of war, nor understood why Americans were in Iraq, but Chris Kyle’s motivations were admirable. You can sense his passion for getting the bad guys as he follows through and takes action. His passion is so relentless that he sacrifices his marriage and his own life to get this done. Watching Bradley Cooper channel Chris Kyle’s character made me feel like I was watching the boy next door run out into the field to save my life. I hung on to his every move and could not stop watching.
In scenes where Chris Kyle is back home with his family, I’m in his head with him, still feeling like I was out on the battlefield. Even though he was in his house, with his wife and kids, I was still feeling like I was in the battlefield with him and agreed with his wife Taya when she remarked “you are still over there!”
The film took you to the scenes that Chris faced out in battle, and then put Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the spotlight. After witnessing the scenes that the film depicted of the Iraq war, you cannot help but understand the trauma and how it stays with you even though you are removed from the scene.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is developed following a traumatic incident. It could occur after sexual assault, an injury, or a shocking life event, but mostly these days, PTSD is associated with soldiers, veterans and warfare. Symptoms of PTSD include reliving the traumatic experience repeatedly in your head, anxiety and depression. The biggest symptom that Chris Kyle exhumed was guilt. In his own words, Chris Kyle wrote the following in his memoir, American Sniper, the book the film was based on: “My regrets are about the people I couldn’t save—Marines, soldiers, my buddies. I still feel their loss.” Bradley Cooper repeated those same words in the film.
Chris Kyle began his healing process by realizing that although he couldn’t save his fellow soldiers in Iraq, there were many others that he could help back home. Although I have not picked up his book “American Sniper” yet, I imagine that it brings comfort to our veterans that may have picked it up to read it and share in his experience. But the biggest step towards his healing was spending time one on one with the veterans that served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many are saddened by the fate that this outreach led him, especially me. I found it to be very unfair and disheartening that his life was cut short after surviving four tours in Iraq, only to be taken away by one of his fellow men. But I find comfort in deriving that although Chris Kyle’s left us too soon, he still lives on in his book, his movie, and his legend. Chris Kyle is going to be remembered not just as a soldier, but also as a quintessential patriot of the United States, a true American hero, and a humanitarian, maybe even a saint. And by leading by these examples, I will always find him alluring.