Joanna Schroeder is stunned by the ways in which some liberals are responding to the murder of former U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle at the hands of a Marine with PTSD.
At a firing range outside of Fort Worth, Texas, two men were killed. And the story is so extraordinarily evocative for America in this exact time and place that it takes your breath away.
One of the victims of this murder is Chris Kyle, a former U.S. Navy SEAL with a unique distinction: He is credited with being the most prolific sniper in American history. During his four deployments to war zones, Kyle was credited with 160 confirmed kills. That’s 50 more than the previous record-holder. Kyle is also the author of the best-selling book “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History”.
Breitbart.com reports that the decorated veteran was killed at a charity event at a firing range, where he was helping a member of the military learn sniper technique. A Marine, Eddie Ray Routh, suffering from PTSD, then allegedly shot and killed Chris Kyle at point blank range, in addition to shooting another man who has yet to be identified.
Early reports of incidents like this are rarely totally correct, and so I hesitate to offer commentary on the details. However, I cannot help but marvel at how the story itself serves as a snapshot of America at this exact moment in history. Here we have a celebrated military hero, a Navy SEAL, the literal “best of the best” of military service, and he is killed by a firearm in the hands of a Marine with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s hard to even grasp the complex layers of despair here.
First, there is a man who single-handedly killed at least 160 people. He has spoken publicly about how hard it can be to transition to civilian life after a long military career, noting to The News last year that life in the military consists of doing everything for the greater good. Everything is life and death, every action you take is designed to protect your team, your nation.
But Chris Kyle also explains how the military does not prepare you to enter the work force, to start a business. But that’s what Kyle did. He built a business called Craft International, which Reuters explains provides weapons, supplies and training to the military and police, among other organizations.
And then, in an attempt to do good, Chris Kyle is murdered at a firing range by a fellow member of the military who was allegedly battling PTSD brought on by serving in the very war that made Chris Kyle famous.
It’s hard to talk about this without mentioning the word “irony”, but I am going to try to avoid it. Why? Because while irony is often painful, it is also often associated with a level of humor or a sense of justice. And when I saw several Facebook friends posting this story with the word “irony” attached, I was sickened. Certainly there is irony to the fact that this man who is considered the most skilled sniper in the history of the United States was killed by a gun. But all I can see is tragedy.
All I can see is a young life cut short.
All I can see is that this man made it through four deployments only to die of the strangest and most disturbing form of “friendly fire” — most likely as a consequence of war.
And all I can see is that Eddie Ray Routh, a Marine, a man suffering from PTSD, will also be losing his free life in a way yet to be determined by the Texas criminal justice system.
People are finding even more irony in the notion that Chris Kyle was recently quoted after speaking publicly about gun control, insisting that gun control was not the way to keep our children safe. If you’re strongly pro-gun control, and advocate for the very strictest forms of gun control like they have in England, for instance, it may be hard to avoid feeling a little smug.
But try to resist it.
Chris Kyle risked his life daily for the war effort. And if you have a problem with the war, that is separate from having a problem with Chris Kyle. It’s fine with me if people object to the wars we’ve seen in the last 20 years. Wars over oil shrouded in freedom, wars against ideology rather than distinct enemies. I admit that I simply do not know enough about international relations and foreign policy to comment on whether these wars should have happened.
But what I know is that Chris Kyle’s 160 confirmed kills were undoubtably ordered by his superiors. And I also know that any of the American service members that you and I know would follow the orders of their superiors and kill 160 people, were they asked (and if they had the skill). Some were not ever in the position to do so, but all had the potential.
So when I hear my fellow liberals and advocates of gun control somehow implying that Chris Kyle’s death anything other than a horrifying tragedy, I’m enraged. I’m as enraged as if you said it about any other veteran.
There is always something akin to irony when someone who is actively against gun control is killed by a gun. But to many people who are fervently against gun control, this is a risk they knew they are willing to take. Certainly Chris Kyle understood that at any moment someone could kill him. I have no doubt he didn’t expect it to be then and there, but having served in war four different times, it’s likely Chris Kyle was comfortable with the notion that one moment it may all end.
So go ahead and object to the war in Afghanistan. Object to the war in Iraq. Object to Vietnam and Korea and World War II if you like (my father, grandfather and great-grandfather all objected to the wars of their generations and held Conscientious Objector status, which exempted them from service). But if you hate violence, and if you want to end the killing, then don’t give into the temptation to be self-satisifed over the death of Chris Kyle. Your problem is with the war, it isn’t with the service members.
To me, the death of Chris Kyle is a snapshot of today for many reasons: First, because it is yet another tragic death caused by a firearm. In this case, it is the death of a person who was fervently against gun control, and spoke publicly about his opinions, which opens up the debate about whether Chris Kyle would be alive today were it illegal for Eddie Ray Routh to be shooting at a gun range.
This death also captures a moment in our history when the debates about war and gun control are so polarizing that there are people willing to use the story of Chris Kyle to their own political gain.
And while I think we should all take a moment and examine the system that created shooter Eddie Ray Routh, that examination should be done with total and un-compromised reverence for the life and service of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who left behind a wife and two children yesterday, and who served his country honorably.
Also read The Breech, Sean Davis’ chilling first-person account of the humanity (and inhumanity) of war.