Something is wrong with the American belief that we are all equal. Under the law we may be equal, but when it comes to our fundamental human capacities and character, one group of Americans stands above the rest.
Firefighters, police officers, American military members and others who daily risk their lives for others contribute to society in ways the rest of us cannot fathom. Last Saturday, one of this elite group's best was stolen from his family and his promising future of continued heroism.
Before his untimely death, Chris Kyle was the best sniper shooter in the military, a New York Times bestselling author and a beloved father of two. He had received numerous military awards and medals and was the deadliest sniper shooter this country has ever seen; Kyle was credited with the most sniper kills in U.S. military history–over 150.
So over the past years while we ordinary Americans enjoyed our holidays, slept peacefully in our beds and gathered with family, Kyle was protecting us, doing the work and making the types of decisions the rest of us would run from screaming. I did not have to kill a mother who was with her son when she yanked out a grenade as Marines approached. He did. I imagine I will not suffer gunshot wounds and IED explosions. Kyle did. I anticipate I will not have to witness the gruesome murders of friends. Kyle and all others of his caliber did and will continue to live these horrors on behalf of our safety everyday.
Although Kyle had the most U.S. military sniper kills, he chose instead to focus on a number more significant–lives he saved.
In a 2012 interview he said, “I am not just killing someone. I am also saving people. What keeps me up at night is the people I wasn't able to save.”
I worry his murder by a veteran struggling with PTSD will make veterans' mental health or gun control the focus of Kyle's story. Although important issues, their discussions have their own times and places. Rather, we should focus on the lesson Kyle's words teach: There are two sides to every coin.
We could concentrate on the dark irony of Eric Routh's killing: an unstable veteran who shot the deadliest man in the military and his friend. Or we could focus on the other side of the story–what Kyle was doing when he was killed. He was taking veterans to a shooting range for some therapeutic fun that worked in the past to deal with his own demons. A true hero abroad, a true hero at home.
Kyle's story is special.
As freshman speech pathology major Megan Hartenstein said, “He, his friend and their families should all be in our prayers.”
So for those who have had the ingrained belief of American equality since grade school, get over it. With heroes like Kyle on this earth, I am proud to say we will never all be equal.