By Debbie Gregory.
Most Americans are familiar with the story of Chris Kyle. Chris was the Navy SEAL who was heralded as the sniper with the most confirmed kills, 160, in the history of the U.S. military. The current movie, “American Sniper,” is based on a book of the same title that Kyle wrote, telling his story. Hollywood leading man Bradley Cooper stars as Chris Kyle.
Those who are familiar with the story know that Kyle was shot and killed, along with his friend Chad Littlefield, by Eddie Ray Routh, a Marine Corps Veteran. Kyle was trying to help Routh manage his PTSD symptoms. The Chris Kyle story continues, as Routh’s murder trial started this week in Stephenville, Texas.
With the movie “American Sniper” playing at a theater just down the street from the courthouse, and the fact that Chris Kyle is arguably the best-known American service member of the Global War on Terror era, can Routh get a fair trial in Erath County? In fact, would it be possible for Routh to get a fair trial anywhere in Texas, or for that matter, anywhere in the country?
As if the murder trial for the killer of an American hero wasn’t enough, further drama unfolds around the hearing. Local news outlets in Stephenville reported that a man called the Stephenville Empire-Tribune and told the staff that a bomb would go off in the courthouse before jury selection. There was also the decision made by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to declare February 2nd, the second anniversary of the murder, “Chris Kyle Day” in Texas.
Routh has entered a plea of not guilty, and his lawyers have told the judge that they planned to raise an insanity defense. Routh had previously served in Iraq and told the authorities in the months before the shooting that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The American public, and especially the Veteran community, will watch this story as it continues to play out in court. Many Veterans will be conflicted by this case, as one in five Veterans who deployed over the last fourteen years suffers from PTSD and other symptoms. Those who don’t suffer from the affliction most likely have a comrade or friend who does. The only thing worse than witnessing a Veteran suffering from PTSD are the losses of life that occur as a result of a warrior suffering the side-effects of combat service.
In this country, Veterans commit suicide at an average rate of 22 each day. Most of these 8,030 occurrences of suicide per year are the result of Veterans taking their own lives to escape their PTSD symptoms. In this instance, Routh’s symptoms led him to take the lives of others, instead of his own.
Being afflicted does not, and should not, excuse his actions. But this trial will most definitely have a major impact on the future of how the American public views Veterans with PTSD.
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Military Connection: ‘American Sniper’ Murder Trial Begins in Texas: By Debbie Gregory