Chris Kyle was a Navy SEAL sniper, serving four tours of duty in Iraq over a ten-year span. Being constantly “in the shit,” he ended his career as the most prolific sniper in U.S. military history. This memoir is his account of his SEAL training and then his four deployments from 1999 to 2009.
Ironically and tragically, Kyle was killed in 2013 at a gun range in Texas while trying to help a former Marine. His killer inexplicably turned his gun on Kyle and his neighbor and killed them both.
This is a very fast-paced read, with short chapters covering a range of memories Kyle had of his time in Iraq. It’s a little disjointed at times, as he jumps from anecdote to anecdote, but overall, it paints a pretty clear picture of what Kyle’s experience as a sniper was like.
It’s very difficult to review this as a book, however. I grew up in a military household, so I know a little about the military (albeit from the point of view of a dependent, not as one who served). And I am certainly glad people like Kyle are around to protect the freedoms we often take for granted. And as Kyle doesn’t really address the politics of either war in Iraq, neither will I.
But so much of the book disturbed me, and you’ll be surprised, perhaps, that it wasn’t his descriptions of war that did it. What bothered me so much was his tone. There was an alternating feeling of false modesty and braggadocio that I found difficult to reconcile. Interestingly, it was usually his service that he tried to be so modest about, and his off-hours exploits that were so disturbing to me. He brags a number of times about how many bar fights he won and how many times he got arrested (yet always getting the charges dropped). It was also difficult to read the toll his four tours took on his wife and family. After he left the service, he seems to have realized the sacrifice his wife Taya made, so perhaps that’s just a function of not being able to keep two worlds going at once, and given what he was doing, that’s fair enough.
So I’m torn. Do I simply admire the remarkable military career and overlook the rest? Perhaps. But it is a decidedly complicated life that I think is overly simplified in this account. I almost wish this had been a professional biographer giving us Kyle’s story instead. Nevertheless, I’m glad I read it, and on this Memorial Day I honor every serviceman and woman who has given life for our country.