I have always loved war movies. Braveheart, Patton, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Platoon; you name it, I owned it. But if you would have told me at 18 that I would have spent over half a decade in the Army during a war, I would have never believed you.

I was a junior in high school when 9/11 happened. There was an announcement over the loudspeaker saying, “all students return to their homerooms.” We looked puzzled, but gladly packed up our books and headed out of our classes wondering all the while what the hell was going on that would get us out of class.

When I sat down, I had no idea what I was in store for. While I watched the news from the huge tube TV, I had no idea that a second plane would hit, or that one of my own family members who worked in the towers would lose his life.

“We’re going to war!” one male student yelled. He was right, but I would have never imagined that I would be going too.

I’m not much different from any other Joe that was in the military. I joined to do what I thought was necessary to defend my country, to show I had what it takes, and to be a part of something bigger than myself. I will admit that I joined because of 9/11. My country, state, city, and my family suffered because of it. But no one I have ever spoken to, nor my research and reading of the 9/11 Commission Reports could tell me that Iraq was directly linked to the attack. This is all in hindsight.

I was the first member of my family to deploy.  As part of the presidential ordered “troop surge” in 2007, I was sent to Baghdad with less than six months of wearing a uniform. I was an all-source intelligence analyst (96B/35F) assigned to 4th Infantry Division, Special Troops Battalion, B Company. I keep in contact with my “family” to this day.  We share a bond that less than 1 percent of the United States population can even fathom. We gave up our own individual liberty as sovereign beings to join a collective force. We saw the war with our own eyes; we shared the pain of burying our friends and the joy of celebrating the birth of children from thousands of miles away. I spent 15 months total in Baghdad, and regardless of the outcome, those 454 days of life changing experience, as well as the total time I spent in country have earned me the right to say what I say below.

Stop worshiping Chris Kyle. He is a man who performed his duty. He did his job as the rest did; the only difference is the other snipers don’t seek out admiration. American Sniper is not a documentary, it is film designed to make money. The director, Clint Eastwood, is particularly vocal about how anti-war he is, but if you are a person who doesn’t understand the message of the film, wake up.

Kyle and his wife are depicted watching the attacks on 9/11 and then he goes directly to him joining the war effort. The narrative and politics behind the war are not discussed and THAT is the biggest problem with Americans. We are too quick to take a step back and not allow emotions to overtake us. We don’t seek the facts, we react, we lash out and we attack.

If this film should serve any purpose, it should be to further the discourse on PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and the rate of soldier/veteran suicide. I’ve been thanked for my service, enjoyed the free meals and copious amount of free alcohol,  but I don’t want to be thanked. Only acknowledged.

We don’t feel we need to be put on a pedestal, but when we see how many of us are homeless, sick, and dying, we fear becoming forgotten.

Politically, Eastwood is closer to Ron Paul than he is to George W. Bush. The point is that the popularity is due to what some feel is a form of mandatory patriotism. Fun fact: You can be against the war, but support the troops. You can also be like those who profit from it and support the war while not caring about the men and women who die in it.

I don’t trust my government, and the Army helped me and almost everyone I was close with during my deployment solidify that feeling. I don’t trust anyone who is so willing to give us everything we need, simply because, if that comes to fruition, it is very easy to take everything away. It’s like going to the zoo. If you feed the animals, they forget how to hunt and rely on being taken care of. In our success, we should want to help our fellow man because that’s the right thing to do. The far-reaching implications of an expansive system are based on the desire to control, not to care or free us. Voting in Presidential elections has become like watering a tree after you tied the noose around your neck to it.

While Chris Kyle is arguably one of the best snipers in modern history, I take his accusations on Jesse Ventura seriously. Not because Ventura is an activist, nor a politician, a WWF wrestler, or because I love the movie Predator.  Chris Kyle accused Ventura, a Vietnam veteran who took SEAL training before they were even called SEALs, of saying that SEALS “deserve to lose a few” in Iraq.  That is not only a serious accusation, but seems to have been a publicity stunt to drum up support in for his book.  He even claimed to have punched Ventura in the face.  Kyle’s estate and publisher HarperCollins lost a $1.8 million settlement in a defamation suit.  Ventura is seen as evil to have sued the “poor widow of a hero,” and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Ventura filed against Kyle prior to his death, so because he died that means you should just accept people lying about you?  Bullshit.  If you are a veteran, you know honor matters. If Kyle’s widow should be upset, it should be about her husband smearing another veteran, not Ventura seeking out removing fallacious statements.  The monetary settlement was awarded by a jury, not Ventura seeking it out. Members of the military and the public lashed out at a man who became enraged by accusations which consisted of both libel and slander and defended himself against defamation of character.

Clint Eastwood was the right man for the directing job, but if you’ve seen any of his other films, like Flags of Our Fathers or Letters to Iwo Jima, you can see the constant theme throughout.  Eastwood portrays the human condition of warfare, not the glorification. Comparing WWII and the Iraq war would be nothing short of disingenuous. First off, we responded to being directly attacked by an enemy who flew planes with its flags on the wings, both on top of the wings and underneath. You KNEW it was Japanese. It’s not shrouded in mystery, there wasn’t a need to wonder who it was. Secondly, a declaration of war was formally made by the Congress, something that hasn’t been done since. Korea, Vietnam, our involvement in Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan were not done utilizing a formal declaration of war; a power granted to Congress by the Constitution.  Therefore, though they are considered wars, they are technically known as “conflicts.”

We have people in this country who feel that not supporting the war or a president means you are unamerican.  Those people are the biggest idiots on Earth. One of the most eye-opening lines in a WWII depiction was in the HBO mini-series, Band of Brothers. Major Dick Winters sees his old Captain; to whom he now outranks. The Captain tries to avoid rendering a salute to his superior, seething with anger that his once lieutenant now holds a rank higher than he had before the war began. Major Winters responds by saying “We salute the rank, not the man”. You can hold dissent for a public official, but you still must respect the office, but that does not mean blind admiration.

Fox News was quick to destroy Seth Rogan for comparing it to the propaganda film shown in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. He was making an honest observation that he felt was correct; that the film can feel like a propaganda tool, and he’s 100% right.  Michael Moore on the other hand, is an absolute scumbag, striving to stay legitimate as a militant leftist in a sea of politically disinterested, disinherited and increasingly middle-of-the-road millennials.

The film itself was good, but I refuse to see it as many flag-waving Americans see it. I do not view it as a biopic of a hero, who sacrificed so much, because guess what? Any of us who joined sacrificed, and there are men who died saving their friends who go without recognition from anyone.  Audie Murphy wrote a book, and was the most decorated soldier in the history of this nation, yet no one but we, the soldiers, know him. Desmond Doss received the Medal of Honor and he was a conscientious objector in WWII. General Smedley Butler wrote a book called “War Is a Racket” in the 1930’s and condemned war unless it was in defense of the nation or the Bill of Rights. He also won the Medal of Honor, TWICE! When it comes down to it, we fight for the one to the left and right of us, not for the hidden agenda. The men and women who come home and fight to expose the corruption of this government, and work to restore liberty, a sense of personal responsibility, and humanity are the real heroes.

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