American Sniper by Chris Kyle (with author Scott McEwen and trial lawyer Jim DeFelice) is touted by publisher William Morrow as an autobiography. But in essence, this is the account of a man determined to do whatever is necessary to protect the country he loves. It is a look into the cultural mindset of a select few, pressed into service to do the unthinkable, all in the goal of preserving our nation. These are human beings with real feelings and real lives with the sole purpose of taking lives in order to save lives. It is confusing, it is mind blowing, and it is real.
Chris Kyle continued his efforts in helping his fellow soldiers long after his dangerous career was over. Tragically, after serving four tours in Iraq, surviving multiple IED (improvised explosive device) explosions, and even being shot, the author was killed by a sufferer of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Through this book, the soldier, father, husband lives on.
American Sniper follows his roughneck childhood growing up in Texas, his personal conflicting decisions about joining the military, and the paths that lead him to being awarded five Bronze Stars with Valor, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation, and even the Grateful Nation Award from the Jewish Institute for National Security.
Kyle was a man of Christian faith. He did not believe himself to be overly religious, but living under the roof of a father who was a deacon and a mother who taught Sunday school, it would be difficult to come away without some form of faith.
Written more like a journal than just a textbook of events, Kyle displays an almost nonchalant attitude about his role as a sniper. At times, he seems to approach his targets as lifeless bulls-eyes in his rifle scope, maybe to separate himself from the fact that he is taking somebody’s life. But other times, he leaves no doubt that the person on the other end is a really bad person intent on doing unspeakably bad things to good people.
We also learn that the role of a sniper does is not limited to long range combat. Kyle was involved in many close combat missions, some planned and some impromptu. But the main point Kyle stressed was the readiness needed to survive both types of situations. He often describes in graphic details his actions (or reactions), but on occasions he reflected back on his training, emphasizing the importance of practice, abilities, and confidence.
The book offers an absorbing view, giving the reader the feeling of looking over Kyle’s shoulder as he almost doesn’t make it through his military training. Then once he is pressed into service, we are shown the day to day evolution of wartime. From the mundane downtime while trying not to think about your next battle to the slap in the face reality of the danger surrounded by death of a firefight, the emotional entanglement that goes through a soldiers mind is both scary and impressive. There can be no comparison of the real thing, but if readers had any doubts about the legitimacy of PTSD, the will come away from this book having a better understanding.
American Sniper by Chris Kyle presents this autobiographical account with the same dignity and honor for which he served. War is a dirty revolting business involving real people and this book takes you there. This book does not force you to chose sides or pass any moral judgments over those involved, though it may happen. American Sniper is just about a man who believed in what he was doing, so he made sure to do it well.