Wave after wave of cold gooseflesh shivered over my skin, then settled as a sort of squeamish feeling in the pit of my stomach—one I couldn’t describe as dread, but not exactly fear either. But the feeling was as distinct and as sharp as I’d experienced over thirty years ago.
A few nights ago my husband and I ventured to the movie theatre, a rare treat as he
I knew there’d be scenes that would be hard to watch and it didn’t take long for tension to sizzle through the theatre as if an exposed electrical wire snaked its way along the backs of the seats. My heart thudded. My limbs trembled. And several times I had to force myself to take a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. Intense isn’t gritty enough to describe the atmosphere across the sea of faces.
And then the soldier came home. To safety. And you’d think to the normalcy of home. But to Chris Kyle, home was the foreign field. He’d been trained to listen, to feel, see, smell, even taste the enemy. When seconds mean the difference between life and death, when shadows come alive and turn deadly, and when nothing seems to be what it is, instinct takes over and it’s hard—if not impossible—to turn those instincts off, to block them out.
I know. I’ve seen it first hand.
Chris Kyle sat in front of a television set staring at nothing, yet the scenes played out in his mind as if he sat in the deserts of Iraq in the midst of war. When he looked at his wife, my blood ran cold—for that look was the same one my husband gave me some thirty years ago.
Distant. Blank. Cold. Unseeing.
I can’t begin to explain how disquieting that look can be. Yes, both men were there in body, but not completely whole. Somewhere along the way, they left something behind. My husband never went to war. He merely trained for it. That’s what the military does. Yet he came home from Basic Training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) missing something—a tiny piece of his soul I’d seen every day when he looked at me through eyes I knew so well—eyes that had been trained to see something entirely different now.
My husband and Chris Kyle have absolutely nothing in common except their age at enlistment, their deep sense of duty and patriotism—a love and pride for their country few people feel so deeply. Through this movie, we’re asked to witness, to “feel” the cost of serving, and you could have heard a pin drop through its entirety, the silence a heavy weight as acute as any words. This isn’t a movie about war—it’s a movie about the man who served, and we see a glimpse of him through Cooper’s portrayal, yet what’s brought to the screen is a mere speck of what lived inside his head. Over the years, my husband returned to his old self. We were lucky. Some never do.
Few words were exchanged after the movie. I knew what my husband was thinking without his ever saying a word. He didn’t have to. Though my memories of that time are somewhat different than his, I do remember. Vividly.
And the only thing as difficult as being a soldier—is loving one.
The movie is over, Chris. Time to truly come home.
Rest in peace (1974-2013)
Photo courtesy of
American Sniper (2014) - IMDbwww.imdb.com