by Andy Weddington
Friday, 30 January 2015
"Courage, above all things, is the first quality of a warrior." Carl von Clausewitz
I saw American Sniper less than two weeks ago - on a weekday in the middle of the afternoon. Long ticket lines. Packed theatre.
Recently, I've read 'One Million Steps' - gripping non-fiction about Marines in combat in Afghanistan - by Bing West (a Marine), and 'Fives and Twenty-Fives' - gripping fiction based on truth about Marines in combat in Iraq - by Michael Pitre (a Marine).
So, primed, after settling in a seat I started to reflect on days long past - days when a second lieutenant and a rifle and weapons platoon commander in Second Battalion / Sixth Marines (2/6). And working with snipers.
I thought about my Marines - riflemen; assault men; mortar men; machine gunners; and sometimes attached snipers. The names Kerns; Delarosa; Minor; Cauley; Chastain; Henry; Reeder; Billings; Culp; Dildy; White; Battle; and Gladden first came to mind. And then Dillon; James; French; Roseborough; Mickens; Sands; and others.
I thought about other Marines, officer and enlisted, in the company and battalion. Some now dead. Not forgotten.
I thought about friends who happen to be SEALs.
Dangerous men, too.
And after ignoring nearly a dozen irritatingly noisy previews of "coming attractions" while lost in thought, the film began.
The people in the theatre were quiet. Quiet they were throughout the film. And afterwards.
Since, I have read and listened to what seems snowballing stupid and horrible comments, politically motivated, about the film and Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. Yesterday the label "racist" I heard thrown at Kyle.
In response, other than the public speaking with their wallets and pocketbooks piling up hefty record profit, there is not much to say. There is no debate. So I'll be direct.
If a sniping potshot critic - of the film American Sniper, Chris Kyle - the man, the SEAL, the sniper, and any warrior for that matter - who did not find the intestinal fortitude (the courage - see Clausewitz above) at some point in life to step forward and voluntarily take an oath to protect and defend America by donning a military uniform, then just say "Thank You!" Then, shut your pie hole.
Those who have served already know you. And the conclusions not at all flattering. So, no aloud (self) validation necessary. Yes, we know the truth.
We, who have taken that forward step of uncertainty and lived selfless service and hardship and danger and sacrifice, protect you and yours anyway. Because that is what courageous honorable men and women do. That is what Chris Kyle - not only a protector and defender but a protector and defender of protectors and defenders - did.
That is what a rare breed of others did. That is what the rare breed continue to do. And that is what those who will one day join the rare breed ranks will do.
Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle, U. S. Navy (1974-2013). Years of service: 1999-2009. Among his decorations - Silver Star (2 awards); Bronze Star (5 awards with combat "V" distinguishing device). And saved many a life did he.