Valerie Complex, a fellow military veteran, dissects the best selling movie and shows how war affects everyone.
American Sniper is a film based on the best-selling, auto-biographical novel by Chris Kyle. Nominated for six academy awards, this was one of the most talked about films from 2014 award season. I will admit, I am not a fan of Chris Kyle’s radical idealism. However, I won’t let that take away from the burden he suffered at the hands of war. As a disabled military veteran whom has served 7 years, and participated in Operation New Dawn, I can relate to parts of Chris Kyle’s struggle. For every military member the experience of war is different, but war changes you. Despite the controversy that surrounded this film, I want to talk about why American Sniper is important. This is not about Chris Kyle being a hero. This is about the impact that war can have on a person, their sanity, and their families.
*Disclaimer* This article is not about condoning violence, or to be used as a pro/anti-military recruitment tool, nor do I endorse Chris Kyle. Also, there are mild spoilers.
After September 11th, 2001, America saw a surge in deployments. In the film American Sniper, we see Kyle deploy four times, almost back to back. This happens quite often in the military. When you join the military, you taken an oath to serve and protect no matter what. The average soldier in the Army reports having been deployed to combat zones a minimum of three times before their enlistment is up (typically a four-year term). It also depends on the type of job, as that determines whether you get deployed more or less during an enlistment. Due to this surge, most members are not reenlisting after their terms are up. Looking to retire from the military has become a thing of the past. This is not just for the Army, but across all branches. Even Chris Kyle himself–a highly decorated soldier, who could have maintained one hell of a career, only serve to 10 years in the military, as the deployments were wearing on him.
According to ThinkProgress.com, the physical and psychological strain is a major impact war can have on a military member. With increasing length of time overseas as the war has stretched on.
Over 4,000 U.S. troops died during the country’s time in Iraq, with another 31,000 wounded in action. In the aftermath, the cost of providing medical care to veterans has doubled, adding to the difficulties faced by those who served. Up to 35 percent of Iraq War veterans will suffer from PTSD according to a 2012 study, while the suicide rate among veterans has jumped to 22 per day.
The Issue of PTSD
Mental illness, specifically, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was a significant issue in Chris Kyle’s life. This element of the film left me with a haunting impression. This is not something that is exclusive to him. This is the reality of so many military members post-war. In the film, you see Chris Kyle’s mental state deteriorate after each tour in Iraq. When he is finally discharged, he became aware that things weren’t going to get better without counseling. Unfortunately, he is in the minority. Many PTSD sufferers do not recognize the symptoms, or recognize the symptoms and won’t seek help. As a PTSD sufferer, I know all too well what it is like to linger in limbo before recognizing there is a problem.
While Chris Kyle was able to quell his frustrations through volunteer work and counseling, his story sheds light on the subject of mental illness. The military and Veterans Affairs finally took notice and began programs and outreach to encourage sufferers to get help before things get worse.
Since 9/11 there has been a steady increase in ptsd cases, many going unreported.
Recent Veterans are seeking care at VA more than ever before. VA data show that from 2002 to 2009, one million troops whom left active duty after tours in Iraq or Afghanistan became eligible for VA care. Of those troops, 46% came in for VA services. Of those Veterans who used VA care, 48% were diagnosed with a mental health problem (2). —PTSD.VA.GOV
Accepting post-war military members back into a family can be a difficult task. To prepare and participate in war, you have to put yourself in a certain mindset. One that will prevent you from putting yourself and others in danger. For Chris Kyle, delivering death was his specialty. There is a certain level of aggression that comes with that. And when you have done that for 10 years as Kyle did, it can be extremely hard to break the cycle. In the film, there is a scene where Kyle has an encounter with a Dog. The Dog’s manner sparked an aggressive reaction from Kyle that forced him to lash out. This is considered mild compared to what happens in some other families that have had to go through re-integration when their family member returns from war. As a result of the 11 year war in Iraq, reports of divorce, domestic violence, rape, abuse, and even death have skyrocketed. It is hard not to believe this is a consequence of war. Presumably ‘normal’, loving husbands and fathers, wives and daughters, come back so detached from reality it is frightening.
From 2001 through 2011, alcohol use associated with physical domestic violence in Army families increased by 54%, and with child abuse by 40%. This trend may be associated with research linking increased alcohol consumption with partner aggression among veterans suffering from combat-related wounds, injuries and illnesses. ” —costofwar.org
Chris Kyle is considered America’s most lethal man. His accomplishments are even being honored posthumously by Hollywood.
With all the controversy that has surrounded this film, I think people have forgotten the message: War effects us all—directly or indirectly. The message will live on in so many of us who have served, or had family/friends that have served and sacrificed in times of war. If you think you might need help, please seek counseling, or talk to someone. You should never judge for seeking help. There are resources (Free as well) to help when you’re in need.