When I asked a former Army Green Beret how many kills he had recorded as a sniper during three tours of duty in Iraq, he used a lot of words to explain how such numbers can be hard to tally but never gave me an actual number. He did, however, tell me this: “For me it wasn’t the numbers. I went back over and over because I believed I had the ability to change the playing field.”
While those words may sound like words spoken by the late Chris Kyle, whose legendary exploits as a Navy SEAL during four tours of duty in Iraq are portrayed in the blockbuster film, American Sniper, they were not. Instead, they were shared with me during an online conversation two days ago with Kelly Stewart, the former Army Green Beret sniper — and, later, sniper instructor — whose life story is chronicled in my first nonfiction book, Three Days In August.
After watching the Clint Eastwood-directed American Sniper and after getting to know Stewart during 18 months spent researching, conducting interviews and writing Three Days In August and since the release of the book in October 2011, I stand by the admittedly-biased opinion I shared in my most-recent weekly recap — that is, that Stewart’s story, as it appears in Three Days In August, would make a better film than American Sniper.
How did I reach that conclusion? Allow me to explain.
American Sniper failed to deliver the kind of emotional impact I had anticipated. When I walked out of the theater, I felt as if I had not had been robbed in an odd sort of way that has nothing to do with the prices of tickets, drinks or snacks at the theater.
Maybe it’s because I’m so much closer to Stewart that I experienced a plethora of emotions — anger, sympathy and frustration, just to name a few — while working on Three Days In August. When you read the book, I think you’ll experience many of the same emotions — especially in a few select sections of the book.
During the courtroom scene, as Stewart faces a possible life sentence, you’ll applaud him for refusing to answer questions from the prosecutor when, by answering those questions in an open courtroom, he would have revealed classified information and violated his code of conduct.
You might find yourself having a hard time deciding what advice to give Stewart following his moment of decision after the court-martial panel issues its verdict at the end of the second day of the military trial.
And you might find yourself welling up with pride for Stewart while reading the chapter, The Last Mission In Iraq. In that chapter, a Green Beret describes serving with Stewart for eight months in 2006 when both were members of a Special Operations Task Force Operations Detachment Alpha (a.k.a., “A-Team”). It includes this description of a scene in which Stewart embodied the prototypical war hero portrayed by actors like John Wayne and Sylvester Stallone in so many movies over the years:
“I had to put down my gun in order to treat this casualty, but there were still bullets flying around—buzzing around our heads like bees, quite literally. So that was hard for me to do, but (Kelly) reassured me that he had me covered. Kelly stood over the top of me and the casualty pretty much the whole time on the way back out of Sadr City, and it was under intense fire.”
WORTH NOTING: Due to the politically-correct environment that permeates Hollywood these days, I do not expect the story told in this book to appear on the silver screen anytime soon.
UPDATE 2/25/2015 at 1:24 p.m. Central: A friend sent me a link to an article published under the headline, The Making of a Real American Sniper. It helps explain what Kelly Stewart told me as highlighted in the blue portion of this article’s lead paragraph. Hope you’ll read and share.
UPDATE 4/19/2015 at 1:12 p.m. Central: Check out the limited-time free-books offer here.
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