Then Someone Took The Chris Kyle Mythos Too Far

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There’s a proposal out there to award former Navy SEAL CPO Chris Kyle the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for valor. Kyle and his neighbor Chad Littlefield were murdered 2 years ago yesterday by a former Marine allegedly suffering from PTSD. In addition to making the national news, the movement is trending across almost every social media platform. Lots of people are hitting the ‘thumbs up’ button, sharing, retweeting, etc.

That is not my reaction. My initial reaction is anger bordering on disgust. Let me explain why.

American Sniper is now apparently the #1 grossing “war movie” to ever hit the box office. It may end up as the second highest grossing movie ever made about a real person. Ever. That, to my mind, is a Good Thing – regardless of your stance on the mythos of Chris Kyle (and rest assured, it is a mythos), one cannot deny it has done much to bring ‘the war’ and veteran issues to a depressingly capricious and largely uninvolved public. Just about anything that bridges the gap between the warrior class and the remaining 97% of the population should be welcomed. We are, after all, living in a time when a reported less than 1 in 3 citizens has a direct connection to anyone who served in the military (parent, grandparent, sibling, child, spouse). Compare that to more than 3 in 4 in the 50s and 60s.

That said, we cannot conflate the story of Chris Kyle as portrayed in the movie with the overall story of the Iraq War (as some jackasses seem to do) or with any form of partisanship. Most importantly we must avoid taking what has become the man’s elevation to pop culture status and making it something it’s not. To do so cheapens and distorts not only his actual service, but that of everyone who served. An example of this comes from Allen West, who recently expressed tacit support for the current whitehouse.gov petition while simultaneously taking a shot at POTUS.

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Think about that. Not only has someone taken the cresting pop culture identity of Chris Kyle and used it in a fashion completely inconsistent with the standards and lore of the nation’s highest award for valor, a former military officer turned politician has cheapened it (and himself) even further by publicizing what otherwise might have slipped under the radar (as it should have). The idea that the Medal of Honor should somehow be ‘voted for’ in a petition, then awarded, because of any soldier’s mainstream visibility is beyond contemptible. It defiles not just the measures by which the Medal of Honor is weighed, but every soldier who has ever been its recipient. To use it for political gain is just as sickening.

One might argue this was a heartfelt nod by former Representative West toward an effort he deemed righteous and praiseworthy, or that this is no different than Governor Abbot declaring 02 FEB “Chris Kyle Day” in Texas – but one would be wrong. West, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, has either forgotten what he learned while serving (doubtful) or he’s contriving a reason to wax melodramatic on a future episode of the Hannity Show. Call me a cynic, but it’s pretty clear which is more likely. And that makes it all the more abhorrent.

The Medal of Honor is a terrible and solemn matter of tremendous import. It is not, nor should it ever be, a popularity contest or political matter. It should not be treated like a Daytime Emmy. It should never be leveraged for any partisan purpose.

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As for Chris Kyle Day – well, he was a son of Texas. That sort of honorific at the state level is utterly acceptable, even exemplary. I wish we had an Ernest Childers Day in Oklahoma, or at least in my hometown.

I did not know Chris Kyle well – I had a few beers with him on exactly two occasions, which qualifies me to opine upon Kyle the man about as much as those who never met him at all. Some friends I hold in great regard did know him however, and thought him admirable and honorable. That’s plenty good enough for me. While I wish the movie had been done just a little bit differently, I do think as films go it will help educate otherwise clueless if well-meaning Americans. (Note that none of my issues with the movie were huge, but they were enough to nag at me – apparently no one involved in the making of the movie ever heard the name Chad Littlefield, I didn’t care for how they flavored conventional troops, and I still don’t understand why Bradley Cooper As Kyle was waving a revolver around and pointing it at Taya’s character near the end….but I digress.)

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I don’t know whether Kyle was a torn and troubled man who did what he had to despite how “terrible” it was. Nor  do I know if he was a functioning and patriotic sociopath (as some have alleged) who was in the perfect billet to utilize his skills effectively on the battlefield. If the latter, I don’t care. Neither of those is a Bad Thing, as I see it. Both conditions have their place in the noble profession of arms and prosecution of war against our country’s enemies; neither has anything to with the issue at hand.

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What I do know is that a petition to award Chris Kyle the Medal of Honor based on pop culture status, or not-so-veiled political legerdemain, is ludicrous. This should not be confused as an attempt to minimize what Kyle did in the service of his country (which was more in a fraction of just one tour, I’m sure, than I did in the entire two decades of my career). It’s just common sense. In fact, if Chris Kyle was anything at all like the movie portrayed and his friends (including our mutual friends) describe him, he’d be the one telling you this. You can admire a man without canonizing him. Rest assured, if the Naval Special Warfare community and or the Secretary of the Navy reckons Kyle should be considered for The One They Hang Around Your Neck, they’ll say so.

Honoring this man’s memory and service, if that is your inclination, should be enough. Allowing this movie to proselytize issues we want people at the mall to know more about is sufficient. But taking the burgeoning mythos into farcical adulation is as disgusting as the vitriol and banal stupidity spewed by the likes of Michael Moore, Seth Rogen, Ayman Mohyeldin and Matt Taibbi.

If you want to do something positive, don’t craft stupid petitions or make an ass of yourself with self-serving comments about a dead man’s patriotism. Go volunteer at a Veteran’s Senior Center (this one is closest to my house). Donate some money to America’s Might Warriors or the Chris Kyle Foundation itself (now there’s an idea). However good it might feel to support a petition like this one, it’s wrong, and it’s not a valid substitute for “supporting the troops” much less furthering Kyle’s post-Navy mission.

I don’t like the idea that some dumbass could ruin a good thing. I don’t like the proposition that media popularity might besmirch or minimize the service and sacrifice of our soldiers, and not just that venerated few who have been awarded the Medal of Honor.

It’s possible however I’m just being reactionary. I would be interested to hear what you think.

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Featured image courtesy of Brian K. Sain. 

Reeder Profile Picture 5About the Author: Someone has to corral the writing team, handle business expenses and bail the Mad Duo (and their minions) out of jail. For years the Pentagon, JSOC and the International Association of Chiefs of Police sought an impeccable man to lead the pedagogic and frequently obstreperous team of Breach Bang Clear writers. They needed someone charismatic, a warrior, able to maintain mental acuity under the worst stressors. Unfortunately the program suffered severe budget cuts so they ended up with David Reeder. Reeder is the Mad Duo’s Chief Wretched Flunky and Breach-Bang-Clear’s HMFIC. A LEO for many years and former AF Security Forces SNCO, his mastery of tactical sesquipedalianism is unmatched in modern times. He’s a self-professed POG who taught MOUT at the Bold Lighting Urban Warfare School and later combat tracking to members of all branches. As a LEO he worked patrol, training, SWAT and counter-narcotics and was on the OC-evaluation team at the National Homeland Security Training Center. You can read more about him here.

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40 thoughts on “Then Someone Took The Chris Kyle Mythos Too Far

  • February 5, 2015 at 9:53 am
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    All we need is more war propaganda. Go ahead and make that Medal of Honor as worthless as the Nobel Peace Prize.

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  • February 4, 2015 at 9:36 pm
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    I’ve been struggling to figure out how I felt about the movie and how it’s been received. Now that I’ve read your piece, it feels like it captures exactly what I’ve wanted to say. Thanks for putting it out there.

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  • February 4, 2015 at 2:52 pm
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    I agree with the article 100%.

    In regard to “why Bradley Cooper As Kyle was waving a revolver around and pointing it at Taya’s character near the end” I also cringed when I saw that. Having read the book I know that Kyle collected revolver replicas (non-firing) but still, not a message you want out there.

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    • February 4, 2015 at 9:21 pm
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      Your point is well taken and should be obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense which unfortunately is not so common these days. To cannanize this man to MOH status is ludicrous. I enjoyed the movie and was moved to pride on many occasion during the viewing. As a veteran, I would be pissed to see Chris decorated with such a solemn honor. I thankfully respect his service as I do the service of all our veterans. MOH for this job well done is not in the cards. As a side note, I know most people reading your article would blow past words like farcical adulation when descriding Michael Moore. Tell it like it is. He’s a DICKHEAD. Great read, Semper Paratus!

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  • February 4, 2015 at 3:54 am
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    That sums it up eloquently. I first heard of this today and didn’t quite know what I thought except that, intuitively, I knew it was wrong. Thanks for putting it into words

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  • February 4, 2015 at 3:41 am
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    I agree with the author. CK was an admirable and honorable man and a patriot. He does not deserve the MoH. He did his job and did it well, but that’s not what the MoH is for. That’s what a NAM is for.

    And I also agree about Chad Littlefield being left out of the movie. It was VERY disrespectful, I thought.

    RIP Chris and Chad…

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  • February 4, 2015 at 3:02 am
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    Hello,

    I found this article VERY interesting, thanks for taking the time to write down this piece of multi-syllabic work. It reminds me of what happens in my country (France), and I feel exactly the same as you.

    A few years ago, a dude named Napoléon Bonaparte created the highest award the French can give, named the “Légion d’honneur”. It meant that people who received had done so much for France, that they would be let in the honor guard of the Emperor.

    Today, this award has been given to French soldiers, but also to French singers, American singers (Bob Dylan for instance), actors… What REALLY pisses me off is that this is the SAME award a private receives when he saves a whole platoon in Afghanistan, this is the same award the last US soldiers from WWI received, this is the same award f*cking HEROES (military or not) receive when they actually DO something for France, this little country which did some great things, somewhere in the past.

    We are already on the other (dark) side, the award doesn’t mean anything anymore, except for a few pew professionals who earned it in blood and sweat. But they will not be noticed among the crowd. It’s a shame. You should fight to keep the value of the MoH.

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    • February 14, 2015 at 1:36 pm
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      I CONCUR ENTIRELY!! KEEP IT VERY VERY SPECIAL!! THANK YOU “JEEP” FOR YOUR PERSPECTIVE.

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  • February 3, 2015 at 11:11 pm
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    Does Chris Kyle deserve the medal of honor? Of course he does, he should have received it before his book was even published. Should the “non-warrior class” be a part of that decision or process? Hell no! Like we’ve heard so many times from the tier one recruiters and instructors, we’re not always looking for the “Best guy” we’re looking for the “Right guy” Chris Kyle was the right guy. He has said it himself he’s not the best sniper in the military, and certainly not the best in history, but, he is one of the best. If he was reasonable and responsible human being not a sociopath, not a psychopath, he was a human asked to do inhumane things, he did them and he did them well, and more times than any other sniper in U.S. military history, that’s why he deserves the Medal of Honor.

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    • February 14, 2015 at 1:33 pm
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      NOT EVEN CLOSE to the threshold of “Above and beyond” required for consideration for award of the MOH. Kyle was a very good and dedicated warrior and throughout my life I have known others…with multiple DSCs, Silver Stars and Purple Hearts awarded for exemplary service in multiple wars throughout the 20th century. NO MOH AWARDS because the threshold is nearly impossible to achieve.

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  • February 3, 2015 at 10:30 pm
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    So are you guys still backing James Price (Grey, Chow, whatever his name is)?

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  • February 3, 2015 at 9:02 pm
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    National service, especially in the military, SHOULD be enough to afford the individual a modicum of respect, IF that individual served faithfully and with honour. Sadly that is too often not the case! Within our society and our military there exists a “warrior class”…if you do not understand this, it is likely because you are not one.Nothing wrong with that, it’s just the way it is. That is the case with most of our population..and the press! They know not of what they speak to. It is too easy and simple and way wrong to lump all GIs into an homogeneous group of “veterans”.. when the shit hits the fan, it’s the warriors who hang their asses out and do the killing ….and most of the dying!If one fails to meet the standards, he will not be hanging with the warriors long !!This is in NO WAY intended to disparage or diminish the essential efforts of the rest of the team, where it has to be ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL! I present this in response to #12 above, not to further muddle this secondary topic but to help clarify the issue. I hope I have succeeded to some minor extent.

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  • February 3, 2015 at 6:27 pm
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    This needed to be said. …and I agree. Also, I find your multi-syllabic tendencies amusing.

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  • February 3, 2015 at 5:28 pm
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    Afraid I saw this coming! Thank you for stating so well what most if not all who have been and done feel about the issue AND Chief Kyle. It would have been more than enough if we could have honored him as we do all of our brothers who sacrifice so greatly on the field of battle.Let’s not allow them to cheapen this good mans deeds and memories by making them into a pop-culture digital personality contest. Kyle was not the first, and he will not be the last! Let’s allow him to rest in peace and show his family some national respect.

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  • February 3, 2015 at 4:49 pm
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    I’d certainly prefer that we didn’t have a ‘warrior class,’ like citizen x above but I’m pretty sure you’re as accurate in your use of the term as you were with the rest of your statement. As a ‘liberal’ veteran, I’ve been amused by the naive criticism of the left–who do they think is out there pulling the triggers? But as an American… I’d rather we didn’t use mass media to award military medals. Well put, and thanks.

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    • February 4, 2015 at 3:49 am
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      Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful that there ARE people out there pulling triggers for us. I just think that if we were talking about everyone with a PhD being the “enlightened class” or “intellect class”, we’d have riots in the street. We’re all citizens, regardless of the path we’ve chosen.

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  • February 3, 2015 at 3:57 pm
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    Legerdemain c’mon bruh otherwise outstanding

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  • February 3, 2015 at 3:01 pm
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    You lost me at “warrior class”. Sorry but you’re a citizen just like anybody else. There’s nothing that puts military volunteers above anyone else.

    Yes there are vets that deserve our respect, but there are also those who simply joined up because they had no other options in life. The idea that being in the military affords you some level of respect is repugnant. The idea behind selfless volunteerism is that you do it and expect nothing in special in return.

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    • February 3, 2015 at 4:24 pm
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      BS. There’s a very good reason that military volunteers are held in special esteem. Without them, YOU the non-volunteer would end up fighting your enemies in your hometown and dying on your front porch.

      Personally, I favor Heinlein’s idea from Starship Troopers that only volunteers should vote or hold office. But that’s probably for sometime after the US experiences its “476.”

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      • February 4, 2015 at 3:27 am
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        Wow…way to uphold that constitution and spread FUD.

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    • February 3, 2015 at 6:33 pm
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      Your arrogance and lack of respect toward Veterans sickens me. Because they had no other options? Seriously? Any Veteran, regardless of their motives for enlisting or becoming an officer are admirable, and trust me, the individuals who are not there for the right reasons will be weeded out in boot camp or in their career training. My grandfather, father, brothers, husband and myself are all Veterans and have all served during times of conflict. Like another person said, conflicts that could very well be fought on your doorstep if those of us “without options” hadn’t raised our right hand to protect YOUR freedom. That being said, I agree the Medal of Honor is not a popularity contest and that Chris Kyle was not the first and will not be the last to fight bravely in battle. America should be grateful for his service but it should not be turned into something to further someone’s political career or get uninformed people to vote like it’s Homecoming King nomination.

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      • February 4, 2015 at 3:38 am
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        It’s not arrogance or lack of respect. I just don’t instantly defer to “respect” just because somebody was in the military.

        There are awesome people who have served, and there are shitty people who have served. Please stop with the cult-like hero-worship and the “Red Dawn” FUD.

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    • February 4, 2015 at 1:11 am
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      What the fuck did you just fucking say about me, you little bitch? I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I’ve been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Qaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. I am trained in gorilla warfare and I’m the top sniper in the entire US armed forces. You are nothing to me but just another target. I will wipe you the fuck out with precision the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my fucking words. You think you can get away with saying that shit to me over the Internet? Think again, fucker. As we speak I am contacting my secret network of spies across the USA and your IP is being traced right now so you better prepare for the storm, maggot. The storm that wipes out the pathetic little thing you call your life. You’re fucking dead, kid. I can be anywhere, anytime, and I can kill you in over seven hundred ways, and that’s just with my bare hands. Not only am I extensively trained in unarmed combat, but I have access to the entire arsenal of the United States Marine Corps and I will use it to its full extent to wipe your miserable ass off the face of the continent, you little shit. If only you could have known what unholy retribution your little “clever” comment was about to bring down upon you, maybe you would have held your fucking tongue. But you couldn’t, you didn’t, and now you’re paying the price, you goddamn idiot. I will shit fury all over you and you will drown in it. You’re fucking dead, kiddo.

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      • February 5, 2015 at 7:12 pm
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        “GORILLA” WARFARE??? HUMMM….

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      • February 8, 2015 at 8:26 pm
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        Anybody moderating this? A bit too far, no (“You’re fucking dead, kid)?

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        • February 8, 2015 at 9:58 pm
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          Lee, it’s a troll using a troll account. Maybe the same window-licking idiot from Portland OR area, maybe somebody else. Don’t sweat it. You can read from the comments that it’s either someone trying to be funny or a fucking idiot, one or the other.

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      • February 8, 2015 at 9:57 pm
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        Your trolling and tomfuckery knows no boundaries, does it “COLSGTMAJ Jimmy Rustle”? Although, we’ll give you credit – “secret network of spies.” That made us lol. How did you get your IP address to show up in Singapore – or are YOU In Singapore? Damn, are you actually Jason Bourne?

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  • February 3, 2015 at 2:38 pm
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    Thank you for commenting on this. I was beginning to think I was being an A-Hole for feeling that way. My friends and I are veterans and were having a conversation regarding this, how due to the movie, the man is being held up more than others who have fallen in service to our country, I just appreciate to see that I’m not the only one who feels that 100 thousand likes does not equal the highest honor we can bestow in this country.

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  • February 3, 2015 at 2:33 pm
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    Amen, the MO is not something that civis need to involve themselves with. I’m proud to be one or the 3% and gladly bow down to my upper echelon and let them make these decisions. Thank you for saying what needed to be said. HOOAH

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  • February 3, 2015 at 2:30 pm
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    To be awarded this highest honor posthumously like you’ve said as a political stunt or motivated by pop-culture is wrong and I don’t believe any combat veteran would take much pride in coming by it this way.

    Thank you for saying it.

    It would be very easy to jump on board and rally for recognition of Chris Kyle and by doing so unknowingly we lessen and cheapen the Congressional Medal of Honor and it’s recipients future and past.

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  • February 3, 2015 at 2:15 pm
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    Well put and dead on!

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  • February 3, 2015 at 1:51 pm
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    As one of the 97%, I found this article helpful and enlightening. I appreciate you taking the time to write it.

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  • February 3, 2015 at 12:49 pm
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    Good read. But remember your target audience, break it down referring to your multisylable verbiage.

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  • February 3, 2015 at 12:15 pm
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    I think your comments are really spot on. I think many in the SF community will also agree with what you’re saying.

    It’s not a medal that is voted on, especially by people who know nothing of military service. I don’t think Chris Kyle would appreciate this at all either. For as much shit as jokingly thrown at the SEALs about “serve in the SEALs, write a book,” they and the rest of the SF community are true professionals who aren’t looking for accolades or recognition, maybe amongst themselves, but not from the public or even the rest of the military. I know this to be true from the friends I have in MARSOC who HAVE been awarded medals for valor and are humble about their actions, and we all know if there’s one thing marines aren’t, it’s not humble.

    I’m sure you aren’t going to be offended by neigh sayers to this article, and I want to express my support of your stance on the topic in whole.

    Thank you for your service, and thank you for speaking out about this. I can only assume that Jeff and Chris’s wife Taya would agree with you, they would be proud to accept the

    award (as they should be) but knowing Jeff, I can only imagine he wouldn’t want it to come to that at all.

    Take care Sir, and once again from one veteran to another, thanks for being there for and with us.

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  • February 3, 2015 at 11:27 am
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    Excellent and I can’t tell you how much relief I feel that someone said this out loud. Thank you!

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  • February 3, 2015 at 11:21 am
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    Well said. Like many high profile issues the pendulum swings and sense many times flies out the window. Keep it real.

    Also, thank you for the continued support of the philogynist that I am with the magnificent display of apodysophilia.

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  • February 3, 2015 at 11:02 am
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    Thanks I needed to read that to associate how

    I was really feeling about the situation. Now I’ll share it

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