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The American Sniper Conundrum: What Now?

American Sniper

So what now?  Here we are in the wake of the great American Sniper schism and what do we all do now?  At this point a couple of things have happened.   Millions have seen American Sniper and the vast majority of the reaction is pretty universal.  Veterans have walked away feeling more or less that the movie captures well the struggles of both home and war.  Civilians have walked away expressing a certain amount of reverence and appreciation for what Veterans have endured.  Then you have the Michael Moore wing that basically, well, I’ll get to that in a few minutes.  However, this schism has dominated the media over the past week and now America has to decide what to do next.  You see, to me a powerful movie doesn’t just elicit powerful emotions, but powerful actions.  If emotions were all that were needed, we could just have America watch the Bubba death scene in Forrest Gump all day.  Love that movie.  However, we will know just how powerful this movie is by the action that it elicited in its aftermath.

Entertainment, Sad Dog Commercial, or Call to Action

To me, those are really the options for what American Sniper could be in its aftermath. Now, truth is, there is nothing wrong with it being any of these. All of these may very well have their purpose in the media and whatever this movie happens to be so be it.  However, the fun thing is that you don’t have to let Clint Eastwood or Bradley Cooper determine this for you.  Rather, you with your own mind gets to take in the film and decide by virtue of your actions what this film will be.  The fate lays in your hands. Forrest Gump is an extremely entertaining movie for me.  It is a moving yet hilarious capture of all things Gump.  I actually wrote one of my first blogs about 6 months ago on the topic. However, I recognize Forrest Gump for what it is.  Namely, its entertainment.

bubba

Now, when I say Sad Dog Commercial, I hope you know what I mean.  A sad song plays while someone videotapes starved and beaten dogs as they encourage you to donate money.  Now here is the thing about that.  I like dogs.  Moreover, I think dogs should be neither starved or beaten.  However, I have never given one cent to help that cause.  Why? Because it is a sad commercial, but it doesn’t elicit my action.  Personally, I am always wondering why they don’t put down the camera and give those dogs a milk bone or something.  However, I get it, they are making a commercial. But in the end, I always just refer to it as Sad Dog Commercial. To be honest, Jenny’s death scene in Forrest Gump always makes me more sad.  Love that movie.  Seriously though, don’t beat your dogs.

The Crazy Wing

Before we get to call to action, let me detour back to Michael Moore.  You see, he and another element of America has created an entire other category. Specifically, American Sniper could be the Nazi propaganda film about coward murderers.  Now, when this news broke earlier this week, I was tempted to comment and write a little about it myself.  However, with the whole nation talking about and getting commentary from Medal of Honor winners, actual snipers, and apparently even Superman, aka, Dean Cain, I thought I would just hold off for a minute.  I am a Marine Veteran Grunt of Iraq circa 2003, but my experience was somewhat benign and my only real claim to fame was hitchhiking through Iraq.

You see, in my view, the segment of our society that calls Chris Kyle a murdering invader is not only maligning him, but all Veterans.  And what this segment of society doesn’t understand is that not only do the experiences of Veterans vary wildly, but also do their opinions of the War.  Believe it or not, if you ask Iraqi War Veterans if the war itself was worth it, you will get a range of answers. However, if you ask them are they proud of their service, are they proud of the men and women they served with, and would they do it again, you get an almost unanimous and resounding yes.  You see Michael Moore, we are not a simple as you attempt to paint us.  Rather, we are simply directly informed on what War is actually like and what it takes to fight it.  So whereas there are a lot of smart minds typing commentary that Warriors should hate what they do, to me that is nothing but ignorance bathed in intellectualism.

Michael Moore American Sniper

Lastly, I am just going to say that I think this wing is just stupid.  I mean, like, just the worst.  I am not going to go too far into personally attacking them because they have already been cursed and threatened at length online.  Consequently, unless I made up an entirely new curse word like Flugatard, or something, I really wouldn’t have anything to add.  They have their right to their opinions and they shouldn’t die because of them. Rather, they should just live in their ignorance until they hopefully one day spend a little time with real Veterans to become informed on the matter.  Still though, they can go Flugatard themselves if they feel the need to keep commenting on the matter.

Call to Action

Ok, so here is where the true impact of American Sniper will be told. I mean, an Oscar is nice and all, but if you allow me to be frank, an Oscar doesn’t put food in the mouth of a veteran or keep a barrel out of it. I choose to be frank because while 22 Veteran’s a day are committing suicide, we don’t really have time for too much small talk. I believe civilians are great people.  However, I do believe our society as a whole stopped paying attention to the recent wars somewhere in the mid 2000’s.  Consequently, if American Sniper as placed this back in your minds, the question to you is now what.

Will you be merely entertained or will you treat this movie like a Sad Dog Commercial. If Google is correct, because I never actually watch it, the Oscars are one month away. In my opinion, this honestly means we have limited time.  For after the initial rush of the movie is over and the Oscars come and go, so could it be with the attention American Sniper has garnered for Veterans. However, it doesn’t have to be so.  If you have watched this movie and it made you feel like you wanted to do something, then let me throw this novel idea out to you.  Do something.

What to Do

An easy place to start would be supporting a variety of the Veteran led charities out there.  You see, from early on, Veterans realized the need to look out for one another.  After all, Chris Kyle died trying to help a fellow Veteran.  There are large organizations such as the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America which are excellent. However, don’t forget that wars are often won on the fire team level.  Smaller non-profits like The Warfighter Foundation are stepping up and emerging to join in the fight.

The Warfighter Foundation is currently partnering with Combat Everest to take wounded veterans on a trek to the base camp of Mount Everest.  That’s right.  While this Veteran is sitting on his couch eating hot wings, Veterans will with amputated limbs will be climbing Mount Everest.  I feel the sudden urge to go do PT. Check out The Warfighter Foundation at www.warfighterfoundation.org However, it doesn’t have to just be charity.  If you are an employer, then hire a Veteran who might lack the experience for which you normally look in your particularly industry.  I promise you that you will find them quickly able to adapt.  New Orleans has somehow given every homeless Veteran a home and other civic organizations are joining in the fight.  However, it is not limited to all this.  Do a little research, talk to some Veterans, and find a way to actually do something.

Veteran's Day

Lastly, I just want to speak to my fellow Veterans.  Look, you all are well aware of the motto, “Expect No Mercy from your Enemies and No Help from Your Friends.”  Here is thing fellow vets, maybe America joins in the fight, or maybe after the Oscars they move on.  However, you already know this all too well.  So my suggestion to you is start living a life of purpose today. Purpose abounds here stateside and there is a new phase of life to be conquered. Don’t spend too much time waiting on the rest of America to get it.  Rather, adapt, overcome, and pursue this next phase of life with passion and purpose. I know it might be rough now, but I promise you when you hit that sweet spot, you will know it and your life will take off from there.  Keep swinging and stay in the fight. A future without precedent awaits you.

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Jeff Edwards

13 Comments

  1. Hi Jeff,

    As a fellow Marine Vet, I walked away from the movie thinking that it is farce and a National shame that we have put 13 years plus of GWOT on the backs of the Volunteer military. We need a least a partial draft to help out the Volunteer military. It is the right and moral thing to do. The movie for me showed the strain of multiple, intense, combat deployments on too few, on too small of a segment of the American population. No doubt the multiple combat deployments, led to many marriages breaking up, the increase in suicides and general psychological PTS illness (not everyone of course) from the strain of these deployments. The US Civy population is very disconnected from the wars and the sacrifices that a few are making on their behalf. This is the danger that doing away with even a partial draft has had on our country and our war fighters. Most of our so called allies are MIA in GWOT, and we are doing the heavy lifting and paying the defense bill in terms of US Treasure being spent to keep evil, merciless, barbarians like ISIS and Al Qaeda at bay.
    Kyle’s death was supremely ironic and tragic at the hands of a PTS Death and fellow Marine. From my perspective, a gun range is the last place I would take a struggling vet, but that is the way that Kyle related to people and vets in particular, and he saw his Gun Skills as a way to share his expertise. Incredibly sad way to go, for such a great American.
    Moore’s comments are idiotic and show his utter lack of knowledge about the battlefield, but what do you expect from a guy who is a leftist gadfly (who of course never served). All of us served so that idiots like Moore can say their stupidity under the first amendment. Just like dipshits who burn the US Flag as a form of protest.
    What is interesting to me as a vet, and the grandson of my mother’s father, who gave it all in the jungles of the Phillipines (KIA March 14th, 1945), is that when large numbers of Americans had served in the military in WWII and Korea, there was less of this idolization or hero worshipping of veterans and those serving in the military . . .why? Because there were so many vets everywhere in US Society, in your family, as your co-workers, that Americans didn’t feel the need to put Vets or people currently serving on a Pedestal. We knew vets in our immediate family, in our jobs, all around us, and we knew they were just regular Joes, who got drafted or volunteered and the Vets themselves did not want people to think they were anything other than people who had done their part. These guys often said, “I am not a hero, but I met some along the way, and most of those guys are the ones that did not make it home alive, or came back horribly wounded.”

    • Interesting comments. I too have started to greatly appreicate the draft and the effect it had on society. It basically forces a Nation to be all-in and share the burden of War. The American population is defintely disconnected from the cost and sacrifice of war. I too wonder what the effect a draft would have on the public’s perception of the military. To a large degree, it is the Vietnam generation that is running this country and a lot of policy is shaped by those views. It will be interesting to see when the GWOT generation starts taking the reigns what shape military policy will take.

      • http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/26/379422847/hagel-stress-of-nonstop-war-forcing-out-good-soldiers
        So now you have the outgoing SecDef Chuck Hagel saying today on NPR (1/26/2015) we are hemorrhaging “All-volunteer soldiers (and Marines I am sure),” due to the strain that the endless cycles of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and now Iraq/Syria/Africa in the Global War on Terror:

        “Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, speaking to NPR’s Morning Edition, says he’s concerned about retaining qualified U.S. military service members amid the “stress and strain” of more than 13 years of continuous warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq.

        In one of his last interviews in the job he’s held since February 2013, Hagel refers to the “hidden consequences” of “nonstop war” faced by American combat forces since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. He calls the situation “unprecedented in the history of this country.””

        If your wife tells you she is going to leave you and take your kids if you go “one more combat deployment” your seventh (not unconceivable at all) in a thirteen year career, how many NCOs or Officers are going to chose to stay in the military vs stay in their marriage?

  2. I think movies like this CAN actually by themselves help vets cope. Right or wrong many warfighters put tier 1 operators on a pedastol. We want to be them and many times we have this idea that they’re indestructible. This movie shows they are the same as us. Better trained? Sure. But that’s about it. If it had been just a war movie like black hawk down than it does nothing. But showing him coming home and having conversations that we ALL have after coming home is cathartic. I saw this movie by myself. There were a couple kids with parents and some 17-18 yr olds. But more than that I saw a couple of old vets and several younger guys about my age sitting alone. When the movie was over a lot of us just sat there while others got up and left we all just kind of soaked it in. I’ve never seen a movie that in a way lifted a weight. It’s not like I’ll always be happy about everything forever and ever. But it was like, fuck, someone finally nailed it.

    • Great feedback. I agree. It is the home part that captures so much of it. I think by yourself is an excellent way to take in the movie. That is how I saw it.

  3. Great article Jeff. Seems I may have that motto on the back of a t shirt or something. Ole Sean Day was pretty inciteful to come up with that. I remember a few times that it really wouldn’t have done us any good to expect help from our friends. But, I think that with the crew we had back in 03 we didn’t really need any help. I worry about these kids coming back. I was 34 when we went and you all were…a lot younger. My 22 year old just got back from AStan where he was with 1/2. He claims he’s just fine but nobody leaves without leaving a little of themselves behind. It’s the price of doing business. I’ve said before that we all got what we asked for so we can’t bitch to loud. America hasn’t been all or even partly in on our Long War. And the way they are acting you’d think this one is over. But I think we still have a ways to go.

    • I agree. I’ll never forget how Captain Day slowly and surely won the entire platoon over with an excessive amount of competence. smart man. Glad you son made it back safe. I also agree. It is not even that your experience has to be stocked full of combat. There honestly is just something so compelling about serving over there that it sticks with you. Best Job I Ever Had!

  4. No! No! No! To all that say we need to bring back the draft, screw that shit. I don’t want some POS liberal thug who doesn’t care about his country nor his battle buddies, fighting with me. Those scum bags will only get good Soldiers killed. I want people who want to be there. Quit saying bring the draft back, you idiots don’t know what the hell your talking about. Nothing is worse then trying to accomplish the mission and having to take care of some POS at the same time

    • WWII was fought after 1941 with more DRAFTEES than volunteers. Look it up. Most Vietnam Draftees served with Honor and Competence, don’t smear all of the Vietnam Vets with your broad brush. I have a Vietnam Combat vet across the street from me, as well as many in my family who served with distinction in Vietnam. You are showing your ignorance with your statements, and you are blackballing a lot of great Americans who may not have wanted to get drafted for WWII Korea or Vietnam, but sucked it up and did the job as well as anyone who volunteered. Our “peacetime” volunteer military was never designed to endure a fourteen year war, and the cracks and strains on it are showing all over the place. They need the support of willing conscripted Americans who are willing to go into harms way as a Duty of American Citizenship. Also more Americans volunteered for Vietnam than were drafted.http://www.warhistoryfans.com/percentage-of-america-volunteers/draftees-149112.html From 1943 Conscription age Americans could no longer volunteer but had to wait to be drafted.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription_in_the_United_States

  5. Continue to take care of each other. Whether you spent a day or a year in Iraq or Afghanistan, you’ll never forget what happened each day you were there. It surely sucked, but the guys and gals on your team surely appreciate you being there to help them through. The movie isn’t about Chris, its about all of us. He’s a true patriot who never came back. You can’t replace the adrenaline that runs through you when you get back. You just cope with it. No one understands what we went through unless you’ve been there. I still support Ops there daily in my current job, that’s how I cope. Can’t wait until its done. With the best to all of you. I’ll never get back all of those days on the road away from family, but I can do all that I can to make it up now. Thanks for all those who are serving and previously served, you know what it takes no matter what branch you were in or a dependent and family member that support another! Volunteer force … now lets talk about that one. You volunteer to join, after that it’s patriotism, because you’re committed to serve after that.

  6. I want to make a point obviously compared to many of you I would be a liberal because I believe that single payer is a better policy when it comes to health care than the HMO system, that tax breaks for corporates businesses and financial firms is wrong and that if gambling can be taxed then so should investment earning since the point of investing is not to create jobs but to cash out easy money. I believe also that too much money is handed out for military contracts primarily as a way to perpetuate an industry that Eisenhower spoke out against. But I have been accused as being reactionary in my willingness to use tactics as saturation bombing. I admit I was a part-timer for the misty part along with a lot of guys, we signed up for about 2-3 years got stuck in shit holes over in Korea and in Kansas and feeling zapped by the sheer mundaneness of those stations and the fact that I couldn’t stomach another 2 or three years depending on MOS if I chose to re-sign up taking orders from self serving backstabbing butter balls whose only virtue is that they got 4 years of college in, I left with honorable discharge.

    You guys, I give you credit if you went the shit and came back good for you and welcome back, but with all that said. The problem with American Sniper is not that its a bad movie. Its not. And other example of good Clint Eastwood as director. And the problem is not what Kyle did over there. The reality of modern war has shown that snipers are needed. They are in everyday the Longbowmen of say the Hundred Years whom without many more of our guys would been killed. The problem I do find is that it is disingenuous there isn’t a propaganda quality to the movie. Let us be honest the movie is no different from say Patton or We Were Soldiers and Yes To Hell and Back. With that one I want to make note I am nor would I ever insult Audie Murphy but I am referring to obvious preference of telling one side. That is the basic tenet of making propaganda you are selling a certain point of view. There are different kinds of course the worse being the Nazis and the most boring being the Soviets with the exception of Eisenstein’s work.

    But with all that said the problem with American Sniper is that why should there not be criticism of that film but yet there was criticism of the Hurt Locker? Why because Chris Kyle is dead? Is it unfair to say that like We were Soldiers to some the movie glosses over the full picture of the war with what seems to be simplistic takes? I have talked to other vets and asked them of their thoughts some see the point I make others don’t want to get into it. There tends to be this view in general and I put the blame mostly the agenda driven political hacks who have pushed that if one criticizes a war one is insulting the vets and what they did. That is bullshit.
    For me and my taste perhaps will be different from yours is a preference for movies that show the bravery of the soldier but also provide the cynicism to balance the obvious stupidity that will be involved in war. Movies like Full Metal Jacket, The Big Red One, The Steel Helmet, Fixed Bayonets!. And and an apparent favorite of the brass in the Pentagon, The Battle of Algiers. American Sniper is great testament of direction by Eastwood but it does play to the heart more than anything, which is okay.

    By the way SFC LYNCH don’t think conservatives are any great when it comes to war or having personal courage either. Romney protested in favor of the Draft and the war back during Vietnam and when his number got called he got an excuse absence by claiming he was doing missionary work in France and lets us not mention the many deferments given to others. Whether you like it or not many notable liberals did go fight Oliver Stone, John Kerry. As for a draft no that would be a bad idea I’m of the Heinlein view that any society that must force its citizens to fight for its existence is a lost society. But again using Heinlein there should be duties that citizen should the jump hoops in order to be citizens and earn the right to vote, and if you a re a pacifist than serve the society in other capacity.

  7. I saw the movie and understood it as it was presented, saw several things not discussed so far. War to me is ugly and an undesirable but a real thing whether we are watching it from afar or involved. I have lived my life, from a child on, surrounded by veterans of WW1, WW2, Korea and Nam. Some of my younger friends served in Iraq. I have heard their stories told as we cooked our BBQ or played 42 to pass the time on a cold winter night. I take my hat off to you “special” friends both past and present for the prisoners you saved and for all the things done on our behalf. Hollywood is fantasy with a lot of power and near zero truths, its just spun kool-aid for its shallow zombie followers. In the real world, from your street corner to the Congo River to the Eiffel Tower, there can be things happen to you, your loved ones or your closest friend. Somebody with presence of mind must choose in a split second to be either predator or prey. I will see this movie again.

  8. In my book anyone who serves is a great American. Thanks to all and thanks, Jeff for the article that reminds all of the sacrifice and our duty to help. The Home Depot on a smaller scale has been helping veterans with repairs and improvements to their homes through TEAM DEPOT. I recently participated in an overhaul of an 83 year old Korean War vet’s home to make it safe for him to stay there. Did my heart good. I’m sure if the local HD were contacted by friends family of a disabled Iraq / Afghanistan vet that needed help team depot would jump in and try to make a difference whether it just be a handicap ramp or a handicap accessible shower etc. God bless all of these men and women.

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