American Sniper Book Review
By Antonio Aguilar
Chris Kyle, in spite of his best efforts to convince us otherwise, is a war hero. I sat down for a phone interview with him, after reading his book American Sniper (Harper-Collins). The former Navy SEAL, who has been certified as the most lethal sniper in U.S. Military history, struck me as a humble and sincere man. He makes every effort to not portray himself as a war hero and to show absolutely no ego, but his actions speak for themselves. He told me that he does not see himself as the greatest sniper ever, pointing out that he almost failed out of Sniper School. Well, that may be true, but not every troop gets a huge bounty placed on them by the terrorists either.
While he is out of the military, he continues to try to help the military and law enforcement community by founding Craft International , which offers training in a variety of skill sets such as driving, sniping, and CQB (close quarters battle). When he left the military, Chris had some difficulty defining himself since his entire existence prior to this had been defined by being a SEAL. He found a way to adapt and give back, both by writing his book and by passing along valuable training to those who continue the fight.
Mr. Kyle wanted to raise awareness of what service members go through in combat, as well as what their families endure, and American Sniper was his way of doing this. If you’re looking for a violent, gory war story, this isn’t the book for you. Not that there’s anything wrong with telling a story like that, but this is a mature and somber story focusing more on the hidden impacts of the war on both the combatants and their families. There are moments of levity, but for the most part it conveys a sense of honesty and seriousness; and while there is plenty of action, it’s balanced with a good look at the stress endured by service members and their families. Nor does it shy from exposing the intense hate that some people feel for America. Political correctness does not intrude to dampen the honesty of this book.
In the book and through my interview with him, Mr. Kyle explored his own combat stress, something that he says anyone who’s seen combat will probably come back with. He suffers nightmares, a common thing for service members, but his nightmares focus on the dead troops that he was not able to save. In his view, a lot of people have two common misconceptions about veterans and the war; they either don’t realize that there is a war still going on, or they think that everyone coming back from the war suffers from full blown PTSD. This is not the case. While everyone probably has some form of combat stress, not all have PTSD and even those who do have it do not need to be looked down on or avoided.
Chris Kyle understandably sees a credible threat of further terrorist acts against the U.S. on our own soil, and in light of this he hopes to foster more cooperation between law enforcement and the military. In this spirit, he founded his company and opened it to members of both communities to continue his effort of giving back to the military and America. The current draw down in the size of the active military will, in his view, “come back to bite us in the ass”, and he hopes to offer good training to those still serving.
So while he did not write American Sniper to try to enhance his own image, I think it still reflects well on him. He’s a quiet professional, still contributing to the military community through writing and training. I would suggest anyone wanting to get a clear, honest look at war and the side-effects of it on the combatants and their families; pick up a copy of his book. If you’re in the military or law enforcement and you’re looking for good training, take the time to look into Craft International. If you care about the troops and their families, remember that there is still a war on and find out what you can do to help them. War is a reality that he has lived; and like it or not we must learn to accept it and all it entails.