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Unformatted text preview: Lexi Berube
Dr. Nathan Kilpatrick
Chris Kyle as a Modern-Day Hero
The term “hero” can tend to be over used, leading to misconceptions about what a real
hero is. Pop culture and movies paint heroes as people who have super human strength and
abilities, and can perform tasks that no other ordinary person could match. The reality of this,
however, is not present. The only thing that can make someone a truly virtuous hero is a mindset
to put everyone, even those which they will never meet or know, before themselves. A hero is
never selfish and he does not think of the recognition he will receive. A hero would be more than
happy to live his life in the shadows of the society he protects and loves, and Chris Kyle, also
known as the American Sniper, was this kind of virtuous hero.
Ask anyone on the street this simple question: what virtues must a real American soldier
possess? The responses would most likely be that of courage, strength, and duty. As true as all
those answers are, those terms do not even begin to scratch the surface of what it really, truly
means to be a soldier. Soldiers must be loyal, faithful, passionate, selfless, honorable, and
courageous, among countless other things. Throughout his life, Chris Kyle proved beyond a
doubt that he possessed all of these characteristics and more.
Dedication, precision, and mathematical ability are just a few of the skills that an
expertly trained sniper, such as Chris Kyle, must learn and acquire. Snipers must develop many
skills that other military branches and units do not have to learn. Their training is difficult and Berube
they must have continual practice or else their skills will begin to diminish. First, a sniper must
become an experienced infantry soldier. Then, they must become not only an excellent shot, but
also master the hand-eye coordination of the actual shooting. They must learn how to be a master
at hiding and blending in. They must be able to deliver accurate shots, sometimes in the midst of
chaos. A sniper must be able to be calm, cool, and steady in order to deliver precision fire on an
occasionally moving target. They must have the patience to remain absolutely motionless,
sometimes for hours on end. A sniper must have the ability to put a bullet precisely where one
wants it, every single time one needs to, no matter what the weather is like at that moment or
what time of day it is... and having the endurance to stay in one’s position for hours, possibly
days, without losing concentration or letting one’s guard down for even a minute, knowing full
well that they will be killed, or worse, if they are captured. The role of a sniper is not easy, which
is why it is an act of heroism.
When a person signs up to serve in the military, there are innumerable characteristics that
are expected of them. First of all, they are expected to have a deep passion and loyalty towards
their home country, or for the country they are fighting for. They must also have profound faith
and allegiance for the country they are defending, otherwise there is no point in serving for the
army. Devoting oneself to the cause for which they are fighting is essential. A soldier who does
not have any passion or love for their country is in the military for all the wrong reasons. Most
soldiers who are like this are only in the military for one purpose and one purpose only: senseless
killing and slaughtering. Berube
A true soldier also needs to have strong qualities of leadership and duty (Living the Army
Values). Being a leader means stepping up when certain challenging situations arise. It also
means protecting their fellow soldiers in times of trouble. Being able to work amongst and with a
team also defines the embodiment of a leader. They must be organized and know how to
carefully calculate their next move. Along with having strong qualities of leadership, a soldier
must also have a strong sense of duty and fulfil obligations given to him. He must be able to
complete tasks and missions as a team without rushing through them and doing sloppy, careless
A soldier must be selfless and honorable (Living the Army Values). Putting others before
oneself is key. Chris Kyle said in an interview in 2012 with Bill O’Reilly, “I would rather die
helping those guys out than have a coward's conscience the rest of my life” (Greenblatt).
Carrying out missions and serving one’s country without a second thought of recognition is also
vital to being an exceptional, virtuous, soldier. Being honorable means working and living up to
the high standards expected by the military not only out in the fields of battle, but in each
soldier’s daily life as well. Honor includes carrying out all the values of duty and loyalty and
One of the most essential characteristics a soldier must possess is the virtue of fortitude,
or courage. They must be able to stare death in the face, yet continue to push forward. Josef
Pieper, author of The Four Cardinal Virtues, describes fortitude as being “readiness to die or,
more accurately, readiness to fall, to die, in battle… the suffering of injury is only a partial and Berube
foreground aspect of fortitude. The brave man suffers injury not for its own sake, but rather as a
means to preserve or to acquire a deeper, more essential intactness” (Pieper 119). A courageous
soldier will do whatever is necessary to protect not only their country but also their fellow
soldiers. In addition to having physical courage, they must have mental courage as well. They
must face the moral fears that come with the struggles and horrors of war. Being strong on the
outside, as well as on the inside, is one of the most significant things that a soldier should be.
The most valuable of the virtues that a sniper must have is that of prudence. Pieper
defines prudence as being “the perfected ability to make right decisions” (Pieper 6). One cannot
simply make rash decisions, they must take the time to ensure they are making the right choice in
a given situation. Yet on the other hand, no person is truly capable of making the perfect choice
or decision in every situation. In his autobiography, American Sniper, Kyle talks about how hard
it was to pull the trigger sometimes, especially when children were involved. But he always
made sure to be cautious and make the best judgement call that he could in the time he was
On countless occasions, Kyle was forced to make a split second decision that would end
one life, but save many others. In the movie, American Sniper (which is the autobiography of
Chris Kyle’s life through the military), Kyle is forced to shoot a child carrying a bomb towards
unsuspecting American soldiers. Viewers can almost feel the emotions that Kyle is feeling in that
moment. His deep, heavy breaths, the beads of sweat rolling forming on his forehead, and the
tension of the possible decision he will have to make. It is clear in that scene that he did not want
to shoot the child, but when it came down to it, he had to protect his fellow soldiers by pulling Berube
that trigger (Eastwood). Those are the type of difficult, split second judgements that snipers are
forced to make daily.
Tensions start to flare when one begins to dive into the topic of split second judgement
calls that weigh on personal morals. The argument is that there is no such thing as “moral
killing”, much less deciding to take another’s life in a split second act. Many devout Catholics
and Christians criticize Kyle and other snipers for doing a job that they consider to be immoral.
They disapprove of Kyle’s job because of the commandment, “thou shall not kill.” The reality of
the matter is that there is some evil in this world that must be stopped, and can only be stopped
by one way. It comes down to whether one would sacrifice a few Christian beliefs in order to
save countless innocent lives. Although Kyle did kill enemies and terrorists for a living, he was
still raised with and believed strongly in the Christian faith. He describes that the three most
important things to him are God, country, and family. Part of war is learning to accept that there
is no real winner, and difficult choices are forced to be made. One simply must choose: let
countless Americans die, or kill a single threat.
An article from American Thinker, written by Elise Cooper, debates the issue at hand- is
Chris Kyle really a true, American hero? Cooper criticizes the people who call Kyle a triggerhappy coward. She refers to an interview with Kyle where he defends a statement made in his
autobiography, and vividly describes the horrors of what he saw overseas,
The enemy are savages and should not be humanized. I was trying to
make that evil go away. I stand by my quote in the book: 'I believe the
world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives.’
The enemy rules by fear. They will cut a person's head off in a family so Berube
the rest of the family will bow down to them. They dragged our captured
guys by their hair down the street. Little kids got their teeth knocked out
and eyes burned out. This is savagery. I don't worry about what other
people think of me (Cooper).
This statement from Kyle came when he received backlash and hate from many people over a
quote from his book where he says, “Savage, despicable evil. That’s what we were fighting in
Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy ‘savages.’ There really was
no other way to describe what we encountered there” (Kyle 4). One thing about Kyle that makes
him even more of a heroic figure is that he always stood by his beliefs and never wavered. Even
when he was facing tremendous backlash over the comments he made and his actions overseas,
he still stood firm with his views and beliefs.
When Kyle returned from the Middle East, he was very humble about his kill count and
extremely generous in working towards helping others. For critics that say he was a bloodthirsty, vengeful soldier who bragged about his kills, Kyle has this statement to offer them: “The
number is not important to me. I only wish I had killed more. Not for bragging rights, but
because I believe the world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives”
(Kyle 4). This shows that Kyle was not in the military for the kills or the glory and recognition.
This epitomizes the acts of a hero.
What is even more heroic and virtuous than laying his life down on the line is what Kyle
did when he came home, despite his mental illness. Coming home from his final tour after a long
career of helping, serving, and protecting others, Kyle set about helping war veterans. His Berube
natural generosity shined when he volunteered to help and support war veterans struggling with
PTSD and other war related injuries. He got inspiration from an organization started by a friend
called the Lone Survivor Foundation, which helped wounded warriors escape the stale hospital
setting and go somewhere where they could enjoy themselves (Kyle 370). Kyle started to help
groups of disabled servicemen do things that they love, such as go hunting, shoot guns at the
range, or just simply hang out and tell stories.
Kyle’s life after the war wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, however. The long-term
effects of being a soldier will take its toll on a veteran, and Kyle experienced the repercussions of
war firsthand. Mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was a significant part of
his life, and it especially got worse after he came home. The American Sniper film paints a vivid
and very realistic picture of how Kyle’s mental state began to deteriorate more and more after
each tour in Iraq. There is a tense scene in the film where Kyle has an encounter with a dog at a
picnic with family and friends. The viewer can see how the barking dog sparks a type of
aggressiveness in Kyle (Eastwood). He expresses the same type of aggressiveness that he felt
when he was overseas, taking out deadly terrorists. This is one of the first scenes where one can
begin to grasp the magnitude of emotional damage the war did on Kyle.
The battle for Kyle did not stop after he came home from war, however. After a slow fall
into depression he started to struggle with the virtue of temperance and moderation, and fell into
a pit of alcoholism. Pieper criticizes the modern-day definition of temperance as simply being
“moderation in eating and drinking”, and thus defines temperance as, “the purpose and goal of
temperantia is man’s inner order… and the realizing of this order within oneself” (Pieper 147).
Kyle explains in his book how, after he returned home for the fourth and final time, he felt guilty Berube
about leaving the SEALs. All he wanted was to be back, fighting for America alongside his
fellow soldiers. He suppressed these guilty thoughts by pounding back beers, and after awhile
was rarely seen without a glass of liquor in his hand. After a near death accident, however, Kyle
realized he needed to turn his life around. He describes, “The accident woke me up. I’m sorry to
say that I needed something like that to get my head back straight” (Kyle 370). This shows that
not all heroes can be perfect all the time. After all, they don’t have superpowers, they are just as
human as the rest of us.
There can never truly be a set list of characteristics that a hero must possess, as every
hero is unique in their own ways. Chris Kyle could be considered a hero for his dedication and
service alone, along with every single serviceman and veteran in America. But what makes Kyle
stand out are not his countless accomplishments, but his sacrifice to protect the ones he loved, as
well as those he had never even met, as well as his ambition, heart, humbleness, and fearlessness.
Not all heroes wear capes, some wear red, white, and blue. Chris Kyle is much more than just an
American Sniper, he is an American Hero. Berube
Cooper, Elise. “Chris Kyle- A True American Hero.” American Thinker. American Thinker,
Eastwood, Clint, director. American Sniper. Warner Bros Pictures, 2015.
Greenblatt, Mark Green. “Two Chris Kyle Stories You Won't See in 'American Sniper'.”
Kyle, Chris, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice. “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the
Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.” First edition.
“Living the Army Values.” Goarmy.com, 17 Mar. 2016.
Pieper, Josef. The Four Cardinal Virtues. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1965. Print. ...
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- Fall '09
- Ode, Chris Kyle