Last week, I went to see American Sniper with my son-in-law. I wasn’t sure what to expect. My daughter is an actress, and I have spent a lot of time over the past decade working with folks in Hollywood. I was concerned that the movie would be a Hollywood rendition of operations in Iraq. That was not the case.
I found the movie to be an accurate reflection of what we went thru as we tried to give the people of Iraq the opportunity to pursue freedom from fear. There are over 16 million Iraqi people. They want what we want: to be able to send their kids to school, have medical care, be able to provide for their Family, etc. We tried to provide that for them.
I want all of America to go see the movie. I am not interested in how much money the movie makes, but I am interested in ensuring the American public is aware of what happened over there. Less than 1% of the American public serve our Nation in uniform, but we all enjoy the freedoms provided by that select few. 76% of the American public say they have no idea what our Veterans are going thru. Seeing the movie will help with that.
I don’t consider the movie to be about a single individual, Chris Kyle. It is bigger than that. Folks are debating about the accuracy of the movie and comparing it to the book. Other folks are arguing about the role of snipers, and revisiting the idea that in their opinion we should never have been in Iraq in the first place. Let’s focus on more important issues, and determine what the movie could provide the American public.
1. The movie is about the horror of war in a counterinsurgency environment. It is about being in a situation where it is impossible to determine the good guys from the bad. We as a Nation sent American troops into Iraq. The movie shows those who sent us what it was like over there.
2. The movie is about the impact on the individual psyche of having to make life and death decisions to protect ourselves and our friends. Over 2.3 million Americans have volunteered to serve our Nation in uniform since 9/11. We have not had a draft since 1973. Those volunteers patrolled the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan. The normal day included oppressive heat, long patrols wearing 70 pounds of body armor, and constant fear. Where are the enemy snipers? Who is the enemy? Where is the roadside bomb? Unfortunately, we as a Nation compensate those true American heroes an average of $1800 per month.
Since 9/11 over 50,000 American have returned from combat with visible wounds. In addition to that over 150,000 have come back with invisible wounds, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TB), or both. The movie give the viewer a sense as to why that is. I hope the viewer places himself in the situations depicted in the movie and tries to imagine what they would be like having experienced something like that.
3. The movie is about what our troops did in Iraq in that difficult situation. Snipers were important. They provided over watch on our operations and tried to stop the enemy from killing our troops. In many cases our snipers saved the lives of my Soldiers. But they were not any more important than the infantryman patrolling the streets and entering homes, the engineer clearing roadside bombs, the logistician ensuring needed parts and supplies were on hand. Everyone had a role.
The movie is also about the effects of multiple deployments on the trooper’s Family. The trooper marched to the sounds of the guns. In actuality, most of us would prefer to be back on the streets in Iraq supporting our friends rather than in the comfort of our own homes. That’s what we were trained to do. That came across loud and clear in the movie. We must remember that the Families left behind are also sacrificing. Marriages are strained. Kids are struggling in school.
I was concerned about the reaction of the crowd when I left the theater. I was emotionally drained, having spent the last 2 hours reliving some of my own experiences in Iraq. I expected there to be a moment of silence at the conclusion of the movie, especially when pictures of Chris Kyle and his Family were shown. The audience applauded at the end of the movie. I am not sure why. I can only hope they were applauding the bravery of the American Soldier.
I am equally concerned about the silliness that is going on across the Nation now in reaction to the movie. Where is the substantive conversation about what was portrayed in the movie? Where is the detailed analysis of PTSD as a result of what was portrayed? Where is the commitment to help military Families?
So, go see the movie. After the movie, take some time to contemplate on what you saw, and then dedicate yourself to helping our troopers and their Families. We will be at war with terrorists, both foreign and domestic, for many years to come. They are going to need our help.