American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim Felice

In October, I went through a phase of reading the stories of former service members and their time in combat. Clint Eastwood is producing a movie called “American Sniper” that is based off of the events in this book, as it follows the career and life (as the subtitle says) of the most “lethal sniper in U.S. Military history.”

This book will appeal to the military history buff and the layman who wants to read about the brave conditions these heroes had to endure. In the beginning of the book, Kyle tells a story about his time in Iraq, where he saw a small child received a bomb and began walking towards the Marines he was protecting (you can see the reenactment of this in the “American Sniper” trailer). He speaks of this kind of ethical/moral debate throughout the book and seems to have a clean conscious in regards to the people he has killed (in one interview he calls them “savages“).

In all, Chris Kyle lived a very interesting life. From becoming a Navy Seal to all the many deployments to Iraq, he narrates the story of his life and dictates how he became one of the most deadly snipers in the history of our nation. He attributes a lot of his success to luck and being in the right place at the right time. One such story is the longest confirmed kill of his career, which came at an incredible distance of 2100 yards (21 football fields). Other stories he tells include his partner waiting in the nest for hours without a kill; he took over in relief and put rounds down range that illustrates how “lucky” he was.

Kyle had established for himself a reputation among the arabs in Ramadi that coined the nickname, “the Devil of Ramadi,” and at one time had an $80,000 bounty on his head. But his career really took off before that in Fallujah, where he participated in both being an excellent sniper, and took turns clearing houses with the Marines. The long narratives of the situation are broken up by anecdotes of particular situations he was in that are of importance or are more rememberable. This helps the flow of the book read like an exciting fiction novel instead of a dry biography.

Kyle’s story is filled with twists and turns as he documents trouble at the home front with his wife and children. The phrase “service member” designates that a man or woman is a part of the United States Military and that he or she is involved with “serving” their country. Part of this “service” (as I, a fellow “service member” have come to realize) is the sacrifice one makes for his country that impacts the family sphere. Kyle, with help of vignettes from his wife, show how much Kyle sacrificed for his country by placing his family as number two to his country. He struggles throughout his time as a Seal trying to be a family man but fulfill the obligations to his country. This is a struggle many service members wrestle with: even more so as a Seal where deployments are the golden standard.

While this is a very entertaining book (I read it in just a couple of days), this whole genre of American heros telling war stories in book form really bothers me. What is most annoying is how poorly it is written. As you can see from the title, two other writers helped Kyle pen his thoughts. This is significant of the whole genre: it seems like any time a service member wants to document their experience in combat, they need a team of editors and writers to help them out. And even then, why is the writing so awful? While the stories Kyle tells are interesting, it is overshadowed by the thought, “did he really write this?” But if that doesn’t bother you like it does me, pick up a copy of “American Sniper” before you see the movie!

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