Tag Archives: US Navy Pacific Fleet

As a post WWII military child, and US Navy veteran, how did the movie American Sniper connect with my soul?

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Honoring Chris Kyle, US Navy Seal

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The blockbuster movie, American Sniper!

 

American Sniper…The Chris Kyle Story… Click the highlighted text for more…

Christopher Scott “Chris” Kyle (April 8, 1974 – February 2, 2013) was a United States Navy SEAL and the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills. Kyle served four tours in the Iraq War and was awarded several commendations for acts of heroism and meritorious service in combat. He received two Silver Star Medals, five Bronze Star Medals, one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.[7] Iraqi insurgents dubbed him the “Devil of Ramadi” and placed a series of ever increasing bounties on his head, purported to have eventually reached the low six figures.

Kyle was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 2009 and wrote a bestselling autobiography, American Sniper, which was published in January 2012. On February 2, 2013, Kyle was shot and killed at a shooting range near Chalk Mountain, Texas, along with friend Chad Littlefield. The man accused of killing them is awaiting trial for murder. A film adaptation of Kyle’s autobiography, directed by Clint Eastwood, was released in December 2014.

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It has taken me days to think about my reaction to the movie, American Sniper.   It was an honor but chilling experience watching the movie.  The story affected me most as a post WWII and Korean War military child living with a parent who suffered terribly from the trauma of extended deployments in hard combat.  I thought mostly of the tens of thousands of military children and families of all wars, past and present, who endured the emotional challenges of war at home during and after the wars of their generations.  I think about my mom, now age 96, who waited all of WWII for Dad to return not knowing where he was or whether he would even return to know his first son born 3 months before Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

I feel thankful that Americans are highly aware of the painful symptoms of PTSD and the lifelong and intergenerational affect of this epidemic on the children and families of warriors.  When the movie ended there was complete silence in the theater while we watched the memorial service for Chris Kyle at Cowboy Stadium.  I feel so encouraged that the stigma of mental illness and PTSD will become a thing of the past.   I believe America will be much further ahead in caring for the sailors and soldiers, including the whole family, when they return home from fighting the wars that protect the freedoms of all Americans.  When early treatment for PTSD is encouraged and supported, trauma survivors can embark on the journey of healing.

My only regret is that as a post WWII family we had no awareness or appreciation of how the trauma of war affected Dad and our family as a whole.  We ended up as one of thousands of families who were torn apart by war, and carried the emotional baggage forward in life for more than one generation.  If we had the awareness of 21st Century medical science following WWII, my family’s toxic past and emotional pain may have been avoided or at least mitigated.  We are also lucky in this day and age for the media technology and access that provides a profound sense of awareness, including the motion picture American Sniper.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of the PTSD awareness campaign by publishing my own book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story…  I feel even more thankful and proud to now know the roots of my family’s struggles following WWII, allowing me to honor my father’s memory and US Navy legacy.  It is in this spirit that we can never forget the sacrifice of veterans of all wars and the families who served too…

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…  Click the highlighted text for my author page…

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Reconciliation: A Son’s Story by Steve Sparks, November 2011… The resilience of a post WWII and Korean War US Navy military family… click book cover for larger view of my father Vernon & mother Marcella c1940.

 

 

Father & Son Connect with “The Lone Sailor Memorial Statue” in Long Beach, California…

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Steve Sparks at the “Lone Sailor Memorial Statue” in Long Beach, Ca.

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US Navy “Lone Sailor Memorial Foundation.”  Click for a larger view…

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Marcella and Vernon Sparks c1940 Long Beach, Ca. Dad was a US Navy Coxswain at the time, serving aboard the Battleship USS West Virginia…destination Pearl Harbor prior to the beginning of WWII.  Click photo for larger view…

US Navy Memorial Foundation…  Quote from this website…

“The Lone Sailor statue represents all people who ever served, are serving now or who are yet to serve in the Navy. The Lone Sailor is a composite of the U.S. Navy bluejacket, past, present and future. He’s called the Lone Sailor.”

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I never emotionally connected with my father’s US Navy career until researching and writing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, in 2011.  I didn’t know him well until long after he passed away in 1998.  I didn’t know my mother either…who is still with us at age 96 living in Reno, Nevada.  Growing up as a military child during the 1950’s and early 1960’s was hell.  Carrying around the emotional baggage of a toxic childhood was worse than hell for decades until learning more about the lives of my parents during the years leading up to WWII and afterwards.  I know them both now, far better than those years now lost in time and burdened with anger toward the pain of child abuse and emotional neglect.  I am no longer angry!

I stood by the “Lone Sailor” statue in Long Beach yesterday for a long time.  I was deeply moved…  I thought about my Dad and what he was like when joining the US Navy in 1936.  Dad spent his early years as a young sailor in Long Beach, California, no doubt standing in this very place looking out at sea dreaming about the future and what would come.  His first ship duty was aboard the Battleship USS Tennessee following boot camp in 1936.  I know he had hope and was excited about life.  Dad was outgoing, an extrovert, kind of like me.  He and mother were married in Long Beach in 1940 and experienced some of the happiest times of their lives until he departed on the USS West Virginia on a secret mission at that time during the summer of 1941.  My oldest brother, Jerry, was born in September 1941, three months before the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

I thought about my own US Navy service during the early 1960’s and felt close to Dad while reading the engraved memorial bricks at the “Lone Sailor Statue” site.  I also thought about Dad’s final words in his own written account (discovered after my book was published) while standing on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, after abandoning ship and swimming for safety after the USS West Virginia was bombed.  He and his shipmates watched the Battleship USS Arizona and the other ships from the US Navy Pacific Fleet engulfed in flames and smoke, and said, “People like myself could go on and on, but that would take a book!”  (click highlighted text for the full written account).  I am proud of my father, Vernon, and all the “Lone Sailor(s)” who served.  I am very grateful to have been inspired to write this book, which provided the personal strength to start my own journey of healing and forgiveness.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…  Click the highlighted text for my author page…

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Steve & Judy Sparks, October 18, 2014, Long Beach, California…