Chris Kyle is an American soldier who has an amazing story. His story has been told through both his autobiography and a Hollywood blockbuster film. Both the book and the movie are titled “American Sniper”. Even if you have watched the movie American Sniper, you need to read the book. The movie takes way too many liberties with the story of Chris Kyle.
Chris Kyle – Growing Up
Chris Kyle was raised in West Texas where he thought he wanted to be a cowboy. Kyle started down the path of being a cowboy by riding the rodeo circuit. Once Kyle was injured and could no longer do the rodeo, he worked as a ranch hand. Kyle was a special individual and the concept of special forces really intrigued him. One day Kyle tried to talk to a recruiter about the Marines. The recruiter was gone for lunch. Kyle ended up talking with an Army recruiter about the Rangers. He then talked with a Navy recruiter about being a Seal.
Kyle had no interest in being a Ranger. He did not want to join the army and serve several years before being permitted to become a Ranger. If Kyle was going to do something, he wanted to be the best. Kyle was excited by the opportunity that he could join the Navy and start Seal training soon after basic.
Chris Kyle – Navy Seal
On 9/11, Kyle had been staying at his girlfriend’s house. When he saw what was going on, he looked at his phone and realized that he had been called back to his base. Kyle claims he was driving well over the speed limit when he was pulled over by an officer. He told the officer that he knows he was speeding and that he was in the military and had just been recalled back to base. Kyle asked the officer to write the ticket as fast as possible. The officer asked him which branch. When Kyle responded that he was a Navy Seal, the ticket book was shut. The officer told him to go give them hell and said that he would provide a police escort all the way to his jurisdictional boundary.
Throughout this book, Kyle tells us many stories about his military career. Kyle does not just focus upon his sniper kills but also the relationships that he had with his fellow Seals. He tells in very vivid details about the hazing he went through as he joined his team. We are also told about the hazing that he dished out as new men joined his Seal Team.
Chris Kyle – Sniper
Kyle was deployed four times in Iraq. He became the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history because he was good at what he did. He was not the best shot. However, he had a real good eye for slight movement. He apparently saw things that other snipers did not see. Kyle is modest. He chalks up many of his sniper kills to being in the right place at the right time. Time after time we are told where a fellow sniper would get off duty after several hours of not seeing anything and within minutes, Kyle would get a kill.
One of the sniper stories that Kyle tells us about is a time where 16 insurgents were crossing a river on 4 large beach balls. Kyle shot the 1st ball and the 4 insurgents tried to grab onto the other 3 balls. Kyle then shot the 2nd ball. Now there were 8 insurgents for 2 balls. He eventually shot the remaining two balls before he and another sniper took out all 16 insurgents. Kyle was like a cat playing with a mouse. He took away the insurgent’s balls and then picked off the insurgents as they tried to swim back to shore.
Chris Kyle – The Legend
Most sniper shots are not those mile long shots that you see in the movies. Some of Kyle’s sniper shots were under 100 yards. Kyle did not earn the nickname of The Legend just because of his plethora of kill shots. He also earned that title due to a couple long confirmed kills. Kyle had a confirmed kill of 1,500 yards and another of 2,100 yards. He tells us that the 2,100-yard kill was just dumb luck. He saw an insurgent who had rocket launcher aimed at a military convoy. Kyle did not have time to warn the convey so he fired a shot that he hoped would scare the insurgent. Kyle ended up killing the insurgent and saving the lives of several soldiers.
It is clear in reading this book that Kyle was frustrated by the politicians and the media coverage of the Iraq War. Kyle is not the first American soldier to have these feelings. As I read Kyle’s frustrations, I was reminded of General Winfield Scott who publicly stated during the Mexican War that his biggest enemy came from Washington D.C. and not Mexico City. Throughout the book, Kyle highlights examples of how he felt that he was hampered by the feckless politicians.
Chris Kyle – Family Life
American Sniper focuses primarily upon Chris Kyle as a Navy Seal. However, the book also spends some time discussing Kyle’s relationship with his girlfriend and then wife Taya. Throughout the book, we read Kyle’s thoughts as he faced different situations. The book then will have a short section written by Taya of her thoughts regarding the same situation.
Taya had a real hard time with Kyle’s leaving on deployment. She knew this was his job, but it was always hard on her. His deployments were always poorly timed in her opinion. Because of the war in Iraq, they were only given three days for a honeymoon. Kyle had to leave for his second deployment only a few days after the birth of their son. He had to take off for his third deployment shortly after the birth of their daughter.
American Sniper opens the eyes of the readers to the struggles that a Navy Seal has in nurturing his family while he has another family that is his Seal Team. Taya really had a hard time hearing Kyle tell her that he loved her but she knew that he loved his Seal team more.
Kyle is the first to admit that he was not perfect. He admits his struggle in understanding the proper role in his life of God, Country, and Family. He admits that early in his career, he put country above family while Taya was trying to get him to put family above country. In the end, Kyle did not reenlist with the military because he understood that there were other soldiers who could kill the bad guys but he was the only man who could raise his son.
Caution for Young Readers
American Sniper is a colorful book with very colorful language. Kyle was not the most respectful man towards authority. He had many derogative terms that he would use to refer to those in authority over him. Kyle was a Navy Seal who loved to fight. There are many stories throughout the book of his numerous barroom fights. For these reasons, American Sniper might not be suitable for all ages.