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'American Sniper' rings false for former Army sharpshooter

Garett Reppenhagen served as a Cavalry Scout Sniper with the 1st Infantry Division in the US Army.
Garett Reppenhagen served as a Cavalry Scout Sniper with the 1st Infantry Division in the US Army.
Courtesy of Garett Reppenhagen

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The film "American Sniper" has been a box office juggernaut. It's very close to earning $300 million in domestic box office since it opened on Christmas Day.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, the movie is based on the autobiography of Chris Kyle - a Navy SEAL credited with the most confirmed kills in US military history. 

Along with its commercial success, it's among the films nominated for best picture in the upcoming Academy Awards.

But "American Sniper" has also drawn a fair amount of controversy for what critics call an overly heroic portrait of Kyle, and a narrow view of the war in Iraq.

One of those who have taken issue with the film is Garrett Reppenhagen. He, too, was a sniper during the Iraq war - though with the U.S. Army, not the Navy.

Reppenhagen is now a regional director for the Vet Voice Foundation and he recently wrote about his very different experience in the Iraq War for Salon.


On how he felt when he first saw the film:

"I was overwhelmed. There's a hell of a lot of action. That's one of the reasons why I usually avoid a lot of war movies. That was pretty heavy to watch. Seeing Chris Kyle come home over and over again, in between deployments and after deployment, and struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, and the breakdown of his relationship with his family, it was very real to me. It was intense to watch but I also thought there was a lot of one-sidedness on how it portrayed the war in Iraq -- not only the dynamic on the ground and the battlefield there, but also the whole political environment that surrounded the war."

On instances of "one-sidedness" that stood out to him:

"I think the opinion of Chris Kyle is not the opinion of all soldiers. I certainly served with a lot of great, professional soldiers my time in, and many of them thought or believed they were there for weapons of mass destruction and retaliation for 9/11. However there were a lot of other soldiers who were critically thinking about their mission and why they were there, and I don't think that was fully investigated in the movie. And I think the other side of the way the Iraqi people were shown I don’t think was always that accurate. They just didn’t show the second side to that."

What he thinks about the perception the film gives viewers about the war in Iraq:

"I honestly deep down don't mind that the film is out there. It's creating a lot of great conversations about the war and people are thinking critically about it more than they ever have, I think. But there's so many different sides to this conflict and I think if people were more aware of the incredible documentaries that are out there, and a lot of literature and books that have been written about it, they can see a wider view of what that conflict was like and what they experiences were like of the people who fought it."