Last night the verdict came in on the man who killed Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield. Dubbed The American Sniper Trial after the film about Kyle, this drew to an initial close, if not an end, to the story.
We live in a culture fixated on celebrities of all kinds, many being famous for being famous, or for acting in movies we love. Our “heroes” are often sports’ figures, making millions upon millions off of our worship of them. And while I’m a believer that warriors on whatever field of play are an imitation of battle-worn gladiators, they are merely that—a metaphor for the real thing. There’s a reason we call them “players.” And I’m a sports fan.
But that is not the point.
War is a terrible thing. As William Tecumseh Sherman said, “War is all Hell.”
As well it should be. General Lee once said, “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”
I am against it. Few wars have been fought that I would have signed onto. We engage in them for political reasons, often which are obtuse in inception, and many times at the end we question what for. I can debate the merits of such ‘til the body bags and amputees and wounded warriors of all sorts come home . . . Only in the rarest of cases these days is a clear victory won.
But that is not the point.
What I do know to the True, however, is if one is to engage in war, the only point is to win it. We must be all-in.
I’m from the South. Our own Civil War was the bloodiest, most horrible experience this country has ever endured. More Americans died in three days at the Battle of Gettysburg than in the entirety of the Vietnam War. That fact always stops me in my tracks. And while I’m a Southerner, my ancestors ravaged by the War, the loss so heart-wrenching and huge, I do believe the South’s Cause to be one of the most terribly misguided in the history of man.
Yet, I cringe at the very name of William Tecumseh Sherman. What Sherman’s March did to the South still brings tears to my eyes. But what I also know for True is that he did the most noble thing man can do—he ended the War, absolutely, irrevocably, forever.
And that is getting to the point.
No matter one’s beliefs about war, the only point is to win it.
The hoopla over Chris Kyle’s role has polarized the Right and the Left, in a ludicrous war of words. Conservatives say this is about defending the moral right of our country. Liberals see it as a glorification of war.
Neither hits the mark.
Chris Kyle was a soldier in service to his country, intent on doing his job to the best of his adept abilities, no questions asked. And he was damn good at it. He was also a man with all the human foibles we all have. But when the true test of courage came, he rose to the peak of valor.
When home from the war, he strove to make life better for the wounded who returned as well. He continued those efforts ‘til his dying day.
Whether Eddie Ray Routh was insane when he murdered Kyle and Littlefield, I’m not sure we’ll ever know. The jury found that he wasn’t. In our land of Laws rather than Men—for which both men fought to uphold—we accept the verdict and go on.
But neither is that the point.
When distilled down to its essence, Chris Kyle was and is a true hero. In the greatest of myths, the hero dies in service to his cause, which is always about the betterment of mankind.
Chris Kyle makes us all better. He is what we aspire to be, in the depths of our hearts. To give our lives in service to the noble idea of making the world a better place once we leave it. To hold as a model the figure of a man who ascribed to, as President Lincoln said, “. . . the better angels of our nature.”
And that is the point.
We are all better for the man and the soldier having been here.
Rest In Peace, Chris Kyle.
May we always revere the hero that you are.
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.