The movie ends with what appears to be the real footage of Chris Kyle’s funeral procession. Hundreds, if not thousands of well-wishers lined the highways. American flags almost outnumbered people, and a few cranes were even used to hang an enormous flag high against the skyline. I’d be lying if I said I cried because honestly, while I remember crying during the movie, I can’t remember if I cried at that specific moment. What I do know is that I was very, very sad–no different from you I’d guess.
But now it’s Wednesday and the immediate effects have worn off. So how do I feel about that funeral procession now, today? A little anecdote is necessary to explain it.
Judging by the fact that the show was cancelled after a single season, I’m pretty sure no one will remember an HBO show called John From Cincinnati. It came out after Deadwood ended and it had the same writer. Well I thought the show was just fantastic. One thing I learned from it was how to feel about the familiar, black POW/MIA flag. Up until that tv series I never wanted to look at the flag or think about it or even acknowledge its existence. I had no context for it. For whatever reason, I felt that I should be sad when I thought on it and its meaning, but I honestly didn’t feel sad or really anything when I saw it. And that embarrassed me. But then in that goofy little show there was a character who was a Vietnam veteran who showed me the way. The dude was pissed. Anger was his idea of the proper emotion to associate with the POW/MIA flag. The gist of his sentiment and why he proudly sported the flag was, “Our motherfucking government took these boys outta their home and lost them. That’s not right and needs to be fixed.”
With that in mind, how do I feel now about the procession, now after the emotions that the film stirred have calmed? I feel like only I understand what all those well-wishers wanted to communicate that day. I feel like no one else gets it. I feel like everyone who has seen Sniper and loves it, all they saw was some level of patriotism and/or patriotic support. But I know the truth. The truth that I know is that all those people who took time out of their day to line the highways did so because they wanted to communicate a solidarity that it wasn’t right for the government to put a man through what Kyle went through. Why would his leadership do that to him? Did they think it was fun? Did they like that their ‘boy’ was racking up their numbers? Did they want to be able to have a bullet on their performance report that said “rubbed shoulders with most lethal sniper in US military history?” Why would they keep sending him in? If there is one fact that I am certain of, and that I would like to believe people who are leaders are certain of, it’s that motivated individuals will drive themselves into the ground if left to their own devices. I learned this about myself through the most embarrassing experience of my life. Only a handful of people even know this prior to now. Want to know how lost I became as my wife and I sat alone in our town home for nearly three weeks after my first deployment, me being either drunk or hungover for the duration? I arrived at a place where I heard a nice sounding legal assistant on the other end of a phone hurriedly whisper, “You can’t ask that. You can’t ask what the punishment will be for going AWOL if you haven’t left.” A lifetime of leadership and decision making training was being put to use to gather all the data (step 2) so I could make an informed decision that going to prison would be better than going back.
I ramble a bit here to illustrate that while I was sad as I watched that scene of the movie Saturday night, today when I think about that scene I am angry.
Thursday – But, then, what do I know? I don’t have PTSD.
Friday – Or do I?