Conservative Disregard For Veterans Exposed After “American Sniper” Loses At Academy Awards

Retired Marine Corporal Jacob Schick on Fox and Friends.

Retired Marine Corporal Jacob Schick on Fox and Friends.

The Academy Awards were presented Sunday evening. Winners included Eddie Redmayne for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking, Common and John Legend for their song “Glory, written for the film “Selma,” and the documentary “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.” Late Sunday night, many felt a ripple in the fabric of the conservative universe, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror . That ripple was “American Sniper” losing Best Picture to “Birdman.” Honestly, given the reaction this morning to the loss, one would think the end of the world was upon us.

Fox and Friends whined quite majestically about the “snub,” going so far as to invite a former Marine (and actor in the film) onto the program. Jacob Schick spoke about how he knew “American Sniper” would lose, because Hollywood doesn’t understand America. Box office receipts, man, not artistry, should determine which film wins the Oscar (and if that’s true, where is the gold statue for “Transformers 3?”). Schick went on to correctly point out 22 veterans commit suicide each day, and there is evidence that number may be higher. What neither Schick, or the Fox and Friends hosts, or any conservative this morning is talking about is “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.”

“Crisis Center: Veterans Press 1” is an HBO documentary that follows the Veterans Crisis Line in Canandaigua, NY:

The timely documentary CRISIS HOTLINE: VETERANS PRESS 1 spotlights the traumas endured by America’s veterans, as seen through the work of the hotline’s trained responders, who provide immediate intervention and support in the hopes of saving the lives of service members. 

The responders work diligently with rescue coordinators to keep vets safe before help arrives. Many are like Kenneth, an Afghanistan war veteran and father of five who is tormented by recurring dreams of “bodies face-down in the water.” “You’re their father,” responder Darlene tells the former Marine. “No one can replace you.”

Imagine you are one of those trained responders, and you are on the phone with a veteran who is, as you speak with them, holding a loaded gun to their temple. Or sobbing as they pull bottles of pills out of a medicine cabinet. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters. Since 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered about 900,000 calls. Almost one million veterans, desperately trying to survive their nightmares, their memories. The men and women of the Veterans Crisis Line are heroes, plain and simple. Where are the conservative accolades for “Crisis Hotline?” Why didn’t Jacob Schick call attention to their work?

What you have to remember is the mantra of the right-wing: bootstraps. Anyone who needs help, a hand-up, a nudge in a better direction, is weak. The suicide rate for veterans is horrifying, but conservatives only mention it when they can get something from the mention. It’s not really important. If it was, Tom Coburn would not have been so proud of his blocking of the Clay Hunt Veteran Suicide Bill. wrote this about Senator Coburn:

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, has successfully blocked a vote on a veterans’ suicide bill, leaving it to backers to re-introduce the legislation next year.

Coburn, who is leaving the Senate, said he opposed the $22 million Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act because it duplicated existing Department of Veterans Affairs programs and was not paid for by offsets elsewhere in the budget.

Coburn’s move was immediately blasted by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, whose founder and chief executive officer said the delay caused by Coburn will translate into veterans’ deaths.

“It’s sickening to think another 22 veterans will die by suicide today and every day we fail to expand mental health care for our vets,” said Paul Rieckhoff in a statement. VA figures state that, on average, 22 veterans a day commit suicide.

Rieckhoff called it “a shame” that Coburn, who is leaving the Senate after 20 years in Congress, “will always be remembered for this final, misguided attack on veterans nationwide.”

Coburn was proud of his actions. As a Republican, veterans only matter to him when he can use them to his own advantage. Understand-not all Republicans feel the way Coburn and many other conservatives feel about our men and women in uniform. But many do. Many Democrats do as well. Whenever I hear the phrase “boots on the ground,” I wonder if the pundit or politician saying it realizes there are people in those boots. People who, if they come home from war, need our help, our empathy, our understanding. They need the government-the politicians who wrap themselves in the flag every chance they get-to give them the support they need and deserve. What our veterans do not need is Tom Coburn and his ilk blocking bills that will address the monumental problem of veteran suicide. In spite of Tom Coburn, President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Act into law on February 12.

But today, all conservatives can talk about is “American Sniper.” Nothing about “Crisis Hotline,” nothing about Clay Hunt, just a movie based on a book, whose protagonist is seen as a hero to so many. The truth of the man-the complexities of his personality, his lust for killing – cannot be spoken aloud. In 2013, The New Yorker’s Nicholas Schmidle crafted an incredibly powerful and detailed piece on Chris Kyle’s life, service, and death at the hand of another veteran. Using quotes from Kyle’s book, friends, and painstaking research, Schmidle paints a portrait of a man who enjoyed killing, because he believed himself to be more than a man:

Kyle seemed to consider himself a cross between a lawman and an executioner. His platoon had spray-painted the image of the Punisher—a Marvel Comics character who wages “a one-man war upon crime”—on their flak jackets and helmets. Kyle made a point of ignoring the military dress code, cutting the sleeves off shirts and wearing baseball caps instead of a helmet. (“Ninety per cent of being cool is looking cool,” he wrote.) Like many soldiers, Kyle was deeply religious and saw the Iraq War through that prism. He tattooed one of his arms with a red crusader’s cross, wanting “everyone to know I was a Christian.” When he learned that insurgents had placed a bounty on his head and had named him al-Shaitan Ramadi—the Devil of Ramadi—he felt “proud.” He “hated the damn savages” he was fighting. In his book, he recounts telling an Army colonel, “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.”

Perhaps that is why today, we hear nothing from the right-wing about “Crisis Hotline” winning Best Documentary, and so much about “American Sniper” not winning Best Picture. One tells the story of real people, helping veterans who on any given day, many conservatives would consider weak, or moochers. The other tells the story of a man who liked killing Muslims, who wanted to shoot people with Korans, who considered himself “a cross between lawman and executioner,” and who, according to numerous sources (including law enforcement), was less than honest about certain events in his post-military life.

Chris Kyle was neither a saint or a demon. He was a man, a man who might have benefited from calling the Veterans Crisis Line. Jodi Routh, the mother of the man who killed Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield, told Nicholas Schmidle this about veterans:

It’s not just that they deserve it. They’ve already earned it. They’ve already served their time. They’ve already done what they were asked to do.

They’ve earned it. Yet the party that represents the people ignoring “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” this Monday morning vote against so many bills that would help veterans receive the help they have earned. “American Sniper” showed a man who seemingly pulled himself out of PTSD by his own bootstraps. Maybe that’s why Chris Kyle is worshiped by so many conservatives, while veterans who are homeless, or who need the help offered by the Veterans Crisis Center, are invisible.

If you are a veteran who needs someone to talk to, please visit this link.

Erin Nanasi

Erin Nanasi is the creator of The Bachmann Diaries: Satirical Excerpts from Michele Bachmann's Fictional Diary. She hates writing about herself in the third person. Erin enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with family. And wombats. Come visit Erin on on Facebook. She also can be found on Twitter at @WriterENanasi.


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