Q&A: ‘American Sniper’ author Scott McEwen on Chris Kyle and more

Millions of Americans read “American Sniper,” and millions more saw the movie. Most were mesmerized, deeply moved, and ultimately even more appreciative of what our military – and their families – endure on a daily basis. What they must do to keep us – and each other – safe. With the current controversy about the number of medals Chris earned, the time seemed right to ask the man who convinced Chris Kyle to tell his story, and who was a co-author of the book and an advisor on the movie set, Scott McEwen, to sit down and answer a few questions for us.

Meet Scott and ask him your own questions during a special screening of “American Sniper” at ArcLight Cinemas in La Jolla, Wednesday, June 29, at 6 p.m. (4425 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, 92122).

What led to you writing American Sniper with Chris Kyle? How did the project come about?

I met Chris while he was still active. We met through some mutual friends who were Navy SEALs, and spent a lot of time together when he was in town and not deployed. The project came about when I realized that his story was truly historical and convinced him to document it for history (write a book).

How much time did you spend with Chris? How well do you believe you knew him?

Chris and I spent hundreds of hours putting the story together. I got to know Chris and his family really well during this time, and became very aware of the struggles they were going through in trying to readjust after nearly 10 years at war.

What was your biggest take-away from writing this book?

I think that our nation needs to respect those that have made the decision to defend us in the military, and support them in the event they are in need of medical help on return (VA). These men and women have made a commitment to do a service for this country, and we should honor their sacrifice.

What do you hope others take away from reading the book and seeing the movie?

I hope people gain a better understanding of what our military men, women and families go through in deploying and being in harm’s way for extended periods of time. Not just the SEAL teams, but all military. The sacrifice is real, and many times life altering (if not ending.) People should know that this is going on, even though only 1 percent of our society actually serves.

How do you respond to the current charges that Chris exaggerated his contributions?

I find that the claims of discrepancy in Chris’ medal count are unfounded. The claims are essentially based upon an alleged comment by “an unnamed Navy official” who purportedly said that Chris earned fewer medals than were found in his official record — a document that’s called the DD-214 — and the assertion that Chris was only given three or four commendations that could be gleaned from certain other documents. But they didn’t offer any backup to prove that’s all there is. Meanwhile, they released the DD-214, the official government record, and that shows Chris being awarded at least two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars. I’m not aware of a document that lessens the medals that were contained in the DD-214.

Do you think it matters how many medals Kyle actually received? Why?

I think it is important that you strive for as much accuracy as possible any time you are writing a true story about someone’s life and accomplishments. The men and women of our military take medals seriously as recognition of their accomplishments while serving this nation, and for that reason alone it matters-a lot. However, in the overall picture of Chris Kyle’s service (or any member of our military men and women’s service) I do not think the “medal count” even begins to tell the story of the man or the woman. What matters about Chris Kyle’s story is that he strove to bring as many of his fellow service members back to this country alive as he could. Chris served with honor and distinction, and ultimately gave his life helping a fellow service member. That is his legacy, not the number of awards or medals he received.

You have written far more than “American Sniper.” What is next from Scott McEwen?

I have been very busy. I’ve got my newest novel, “Ghost Sniper,” in a four-novel series called “Sniper Elite,” which releases this summer, July 12. Sony/Columbia are now in production on a movie based on the Sniper Elite series. Also, in September we release “American Commander,” a book on the life of Ryan Zinke, a current congressman from Montana, who was a SEAL for 23 years and was one of Chris’ commanders. It is really a book about American exceptionalism, devotion to this country, and what it takes to make and maintain the SEALs and the U.S. Military in general, the strongest force for good on the face of the planet. My favorite subjects.

Antoinette Kuritz and Jared Kuritz are the team behind both STRATEGIES Public Relations and the La Jolla Writer’s Conference (www.lajollawritersconference.com).

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