An eye-witness account of his service and sacrifice, Navy SEAL Chris Kyle describes his experiences in the US military from 1997 to 2009, the stress of being separated from his wife during his four tours in Iraq, and the everlasting bonds he formed with his brothers-in-arms in his book American Sniper. The cover of the book gives readers the impression that Kyle’s biggest claim to earning the moniker of American Hero is based on having killed the most number of Islamic insurgents. Of course, no one should tell a book by its cover and this is particularly true of American Sniper.
Contrary to popular belief, the book does not merely focus on Kyle’s successful kills. He begins by speaking about his family and growing up in Texas, performing in rodeos at the age of sixteen and later working as a ranch hands. There are no signs of a killer during this early period just a boy growing into a man, working after school, dating, and being respectful of his parents. These first few chapters allow readers into Kyle’s home life, his private world of dealing with cows, horses, and bronco bulls, none of which he killed.
He discusses the motivation to join the armed forces while he attends college for ranch management, the profession he pursued during the mid-90’s. Accepted into the BUD/S program (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL), the preliminary course to becoming a Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land Team), he speaks with great enthusiasm about those early days doing training exercises, testing and challenging his willpower to the breaking point of an average human. At this point, the reader is given a taste of the stress trainees in the armed forces must endure before being accepted into a team.
Even as Kyle goes into his initial responsibilities as a Navy SEAL, being a sniper is not introduced. He enlightens audiences about the SEAL’s mission to take down cargo ships for VBSS (visit, board, search, and seize) in accordance with the UN’s violation of international sanctions. Oil and contraband had been smuggled out of Iraq during this time and the US was the muscle behind the UN’s sanctions.
The fierce action really happens after war is declared against the Taliban, more specifically Iraqis on jihad in March 2003, and the Marines begin their march to Baghdad. A large chunk of the book, as one would expect, is devoted to the extermination of Islamic jihadists sheltered in Iraq. Kyle’s SEAL platoon named Cadillac and affectionately dubbed Budweiser and later The Punisher after the Marvel comics hero by that name, assist the Marines as a sniper killing Islamic insurgents aiming deadly weapons at US armed forces.
The part about Kyle being an American sniper to protect the armed forces who were tasked with weeding out Islamic jihadists is only one portion of a multi-layered story. Kyle personalizes the scenes as he follows the strict rules of engagement (ROE) prior to pulling the trigger and vanquishing the threat to US soldiers whom he fondly calls his “boys.”
Kyle educates audiences about the players involved in the firefights, identifying the Sunnis, Shiites (she-ites), Chechens, and mujadeens (people on jihad) as the threat to the US and Coalition forces, and only the Kurds as their allies. He evaluates the firearms used in combat and DA’s (direct action), the protective gear each soldier wears, and the computer equipment available for tactical planning. His knowledge of the science behind the devices and the specifics he illustrates about stalking a target enthralls the reader. He details the urban warfare he engages in while at Sadr City, Ramadi, Fallujah, and Baghdad.
His record for making the most successful kills earned him the labels of “Legend,” “Myth,” and “Devil of Ramadi.” His detractors call him a serial killer, a monster, a madman, etc., but Americans who love their flag and protect their lifestyle and freedoms call him an American hero.
American Sniper is a collection of war stories sprinkled with excerpts from Kyle’s wife expressing her worries for her husband and the self-preservation mode that kicks in when feeling abandoned, none of which shows evidence of propaganda or advocacy for any particular political party or special interest group, not even the NRA (National Rifle Association). The book is about an American who worked to contribute to his Country the best and most effective way he could. The loss of his life touches people he never met and adds to his legacy so unintentionally induced. He made American history without ever intending to do so.