Saturday, March 2, 2013

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History

When the news hit that Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was killed on a rifle range on Feb 2, 2013, a range of emotions came over me.  It was weird because I had only really heard of Chris Kyle a couple of times before.  I knew he was a SEAL and that he served admirably in the Iraq war, but I didn't know very much about him beyond that.  I was pissed off because his death seemed very suspicious and tragic to me.

I didn't know this at the time, but he had written an autobiography about his experiences in the Iraq war.  I decided to buy the book because of two reasons: I felt it necessary for me to do some catching up and really understand this hero.  I also felt that by purchasing the book, I'm helping out his family in a small way.

I dove into the book after it came to my house.  I read it on and off during those periods at work where all I was doing was monitoring equipment as it operated.

Without getting into too many details about specific missions, Kyle went to great lengths to put as much nitty gritty details about what life in Iraq was like, and just how dangerous places like Ramadi and Sadr City were.  He was involved in 6 explosions that he notes, and shot twice.  He also soldiered on with injured knees after a wall collapsed on him during a fight.

Racking up an impressive number of confirmed kills, he is credited with 160 out of what is commonly said to be 255 claimed.  I believe it.  Kyle was such an effective sniper, and bad ass warrior, that the Iraqi insurgents officially dubbed him Shaitan Ar-Ramadi (Devil of Ramadi) and put a substantial bounty on his head.  Kyle took the title and bounties as badges of honor.

In the book, we also get his wife's point of view.  Written in italics in various places around the book, his wife Taya gives a no BS description of what it was like to be alone with two kids while her husband was away at war.  I think it is a perspective lost on many other accounts of what war is.  Oftentimes, we focus so much on what the warriors are doing that we forget the ones they leave behind.  I appreciated her no BS approach to her feelings and just what she felt.

Kyle served 4 tours in Iraq and served with distinction on SEAL team 3 for the bulk of it.  His longest shot in the war was 2100 yards.  He claims it was dumb luck that got him that kill.  He shot an insurgent after watching him to ensure that the Rules of Engagement were followed.  His shot was taken with a .338 Lapua rifle.

Though Kyle talks of war as if it was fun for him, he wholeheartedly believed that every person he killed was evil and deserved to die.  He hated the insurgents and from how he describes what he saw, I can't blame him.  The fact that he had very few questionable kills (which were then determined to be within the ROE) suggests that he truly believed in what he was fighting for and that he was an honorable man.

I think the part that saddens me the most was when I was reading toward the end of the book.  Kyle talked about his plans and aspirations for the future with his career and his family.  He spoke of teaching his son to shoot, and raising his daughter.  I think that saddened me the most.  The man was a family man, and after his honorable discharge, he switched gears from the warrior to the father and husband.  I think if he was alive today, he would still be one of the best fathers and husbands that this nation could have at a time like this, when all hell seems to be breaking loose.  We lost a good American in a senseless tragedy.  Though I've gone on record to call it an assassination, and I still stand by that claim, the fact that remains is a good man died far before his time.

Today is March 2, 2013.  Flags at half mast in honor of a great warrior, father, and husband.


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