'American Sniper' Review: Military Autobiography Highlights a True Hero

Chief Chris Kyle was a Navy Seal for ten years. He served four combat tours in Iraq, earned numerous medals, saved countless lives and accomplished more than most men walking around in this great country ever will. He has now retold his experiences in the new autobiography “American Sniper,” which hits book shelves today.

Chief Kyle tells his story in what must be dubbed a “no bull” manner. He has little time for political correctness or even political incorrectness. He’s certainly not a writer. But that is what makes what is written so good and his story so compelling. Chief Kyle ignores irony and trying to push either a political agenda or an emotional one. He simply writes his story. The emotions and everything else come naturally through. You can feel Chief Kyle sitting in a chair allowing us the privilege of hearing his story, his story of bravery. Bravery is too clichéd a word, though. What Chief Kyle experienced is beyond bravery. His pureness in his patriotism, his Christianity, his need for battle, his love for family breathes a freshness into the words on each page. Chief Kyle gives himself to us for 379 pages despite already giving us so much.

“American Sniper” does not follow a regular narrative. There are no larger story arcs: no beginning, middle or end. “American Sniper” is a man’s story, and that man’s life continues, so it doesn’t follow a typical storytelling narrative. Chief Kyle tells us about everything from meeting his wife and BUD/S training to knocking out a rather famous former Navy SEAL who wouldn’t keep his conspiracy theories to himself. He also takes us deep into his deployments to Iraq. He guides us through his major kills as a sniper and the major firefights his platoon found themselves in (believe me, there are plenty).

The book also provides us with occasional thoughts from Mrs. Kyle. She provides her experiences during the Chief’s deployments and the difficulty of raising a family with a Navy SEAL father and husband. In fact, the contrast of the peace of family and the hectic danger of war become contrasting themes in the book. Chief Kyle is open and honest about his back-to-back deployments straining his marriage and how his decision to eventually leave the Navy was a conflicted one, but saved both his marriage and possibly his own life.

But the book never makes these contrasting themes the focal point. This is Chief Kyle’s story. He’s a Navy SEAL, a father, a husband and he has the most confirmed kills of any military sniper. However, what really matters to him are his brothers in arms. Chief Kyle constantly talks of his affection for those who serve, especially his brother SEALs. He says he served America during his deployments, not Iraq. But this, alas, is also not the focal point of the book. “American Sniper” isn’t about Chief Kyle’s viewpoints on the Iraq war or anything else. In fact, he’s too much of a non BS-er to get involved with the foibles of politics, which is a good thing for the reader.

“American Sniper” provides us with a firsthand look at the Iraq war and war and warriors in general. Chief Kyle speaks bluntly and openly. The book takes us deep into enemy territory where we can observe the actions of him and his platoon mates. He never offers apologies and he shouldn’t have to. Everything he does is for the good of the country, and we are all the better for it.

“American Sniper” is a great way to kick off your 2012 reading year. Its blunt style gives it both personality and insight and, most importantly, a great technique to tell the story. Chief Kyle is a real life hero. He’s the guy they make movies about, though he seems to deny this repeatedly. He constantly pushes the adoration towards his fellow SEALs and service men, and his genuine modesty only make him more noble. Pick up “American Sniper” if you want a tough-as-nails account of the war on terror or a tough-as-nails account of a true warrior, because this is both.