Monday

The Life and Death of an American Sniper

Reading the advance reviews of "American Sniper" and this Marine's life and death, I'm moved to write about another couple of snipers from a "Flipside" perspective.  

Although James Blake Miller didn't have 160 kills to his credit, he did say something unusual in this article, published in 2004 by the "LA Times." referring to the story which published a photo of him (below) where he was smoking a cigarette and dubbed "the Marlboro Man."


from the article:

"Miller talked about killing the enemy.

"To try to live with that . . . how do you justify it, regardless of what your causes are or what their causes are?" he said.

"To see somebody in your sights and to pull that trigger, it's almost like you're with them, seeing their life flash before their eyes as well as taking it. It's an insane connection that you make with that person at that point."

The original article:

November 13, 2004|By Patrick J. McDonnell | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

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FALLOUJA, Iraq — The Marlboro man is angry: He has a war to fight and he's running out of smokes.
"If you want to write something," he tells an intruding reporter, "tell Marlboro I'm down to four packs and I'm here in Fallouja till who knows when. Maybe they can send some. And they can bring down the price a bit."
Such are the unvarnished sentiments of Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller, 20, a country boy from Kentucky who has been thrust unwittingly and somewhat unwillingly into the role of poster boy for a war on the other side of the world from his home on the farm.
"I just don't understand what all the fuss is about," Miller drawls Friday as he crouches inside an abandoned building with his platoon mates, preparing to fight insurgents holed up in yet another mosque. "I was just smokin' a cigarette and someone takes my picture and it all blows up."
Then this happened:

Los Angeles Times Photographer Offers Update On Marlboro Marine

At the end of April 2006, I returned home from a few days of down time with my husband to a surprising email from a small New York publishing firm. Ig Publishing said that they were interested in putting out a book on combat PTSD. Would I write it?

The following month I set about fashioning a proposal for what would eventually become Moving a Nation to Care and began reaching out to possible interview subjects for the project.

It didn't take me long to know without any hesitation whose story I needed to open the book with: James Blake Miller, aka the Marlboro Marine. I'd begun covering the issue of combat PTSD and our returning troops in September of 2005 and Miller made a deep impression on me when he came forward only a few short months later, in January 2006, to tell the world of his struggle with PTSD.

He was so honest about his experience in the many interviews he gave, and so clearly carried no other agenda than simply wanting to help destigmatize the diagnosis he'd been given. Dr. Robert Roerich, who eventually contributed Moving's foreword, was in touch with Miller at the time that I was working on my proposal and contacted him on my behalf.


And then this:

Rolling Stone's Article: 




By  | 

Blake Miller can't stand cats. He didn't always hate them, but that was before Iraq; before he fought in the battle of Fallujah; before the first enemy soldier Miller killed lay, rotting in the street for three days, his remains picked over by a hungry cat that had crawled inside the dead Iraqi's hollowed-out chest. Miller's life divides like that, into then and now. Before November 9th, 2004. Before the photograph.
RelatedBaghdad
On that day, as Miller paused for a smoke during a lull in the fighting, a photographer from The Los Angeles Times captured the battle-weary Marine with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Miller's face was smeared with soot and sand and blood and war paint, none of which could camouflage his bewilderment and exhaustion. The image was soon plastered all over the news, appearing in more than 150 publications worldwide and earning him the moniker "Marlboro Man." Overnight, the photo made Miller an unwitting icon, a symbol of the indomitable spirit of U.S. troops, the heroism and virility of the American fighter. The New York Post ran the shot – later nominated for a Pulitzer Prize – under a simple headline: SMOKIN'.
That was then. These days, Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller spends much of his time sitting on the floor of the run-down trailer he keeps as a residence behind his father's house in the tiny coal-mining town of Jonancy, Kentucky (population 297). This is his favorite spot in the trailer, where he reclines against an easy chair whose upholstery has turned a dingy nicotine brown. From here, Miller can anticipate any possible threat, keep an eye on all avenues of approach an enemy might take. As cigarette butts overflow in the ashtray and empty beer bottles collect around him, he silently cycles through procedures the Marine Corps drilled into his head: defend, reinforce, attack, withdraw, delay. He knows it's only seven steps to the front door, but he worries whether his truck has enough gas to make an escape. He wishes someone had told him that "there may come a time when all that shit you learned, you might not be able to turn it off."

A short film about James:




I'll bet Mr. Miller will have an unusual experience when he watches this film "American Sniper" (if he chooses to do so" and I hope someone follows up and asks him about it.)

Which brings us to "American Sniper."

According to his book, Chris Kyle had the most kills of any sniper in US History. According this his book, he saw Iraqis as less than human to put it lightly, (“Savage, despicable evil. That's what we were fighting in Iraq”) and their deaths a necessary task in order to protect his fellow Marines.  

I'm not judging this perspective, or making it into a pejorative - he did his job extremely well.  Set aside the facts for a moment; we should never have invaded Iraq, he should never have been asked to stare down a site at children, women or Iraqis in the first place.  Set those details aside, because he was asked to do a job, and he did it extremely well.

Unfortunately, Chris was murdered in cold blood - which is an odd term, because in terms of the "Flipside" we're told over and over that people don't die - that they performed their roles on the stage of life, with varying degrees of success. So no one dies for "no reason."  There is a reason, and we just aren't privy to it. (Unless someone close to the victim does an LBL session with a Michael Newton trained therapist - which I've found is a place where people can ask any question and get them answered in such a way as they truly feel they know the answer.)

But in the case of Chris Kyle  they had just begun to make a movie about his life when he was killed. And not by a disgruntled Iraqi, but by a US veteran, a Marine who suffered from PTSD.  Chris was trying to help this soldier overcome his own damage done by the war, and it killed him.

To give this story some perspective, it's repeated in the research in "Flipside" and "It's a Wonderful Afterlife" that in both NDEs and LBLs people often experience a "past life review" where they go over all the things they've done, good or bad, and are able to experience first hand the pain they've inflicted, or the souls they've helped.  And in these sessions we also find accounts of how a person's death at the hands of another may have been "contracted" or talked about, decided upon, prior to coming to the planet.  

These repeated assertions (thousands of sessions, I've filmed 25) make it very difficult for anyone to judge another's path - unless they're literally in their shoes, or in their soul group.  We can't judge either the sniper or the person they're shooting - other than to come to the conclusion that they've come together for some reason that only they can understand.

Perhaps to save the lives of their loved ones - the sniper saving the lives of his loved ones, and the person being shot trying to save the lives of their loved ones.  

It's rare to have the opportunity to examine these issues, and I applaud the filmmakers for making this film which will certainly allow people to see the dilemma for themselves.

For those of you looking for a connection between me and the work, the only one I can point to is that my pal Luana Anders worked with Clint Eastwood on his television show, and she said "he was the most beautiful human being I'd ever seen in my life." 

But back to this discussion of snipers - those folks that we ask to kill in our names, whether it be via a drone attack or on the field of battle.  They're a particular type of person, and since the 18th century, and later the Civil War these "sharpshooters" have been known for their uncanny abilities.

But in terms of the research in "Flipside" and "It's A Wonderful Afterlife" I'm friends with one sniper who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the Army Rangers and military advisor, David Parke, and he's now become a hypnotherapist trained in the Michael Newton method of between life therapy.

Dave's a terrific, warm person, and needless to say he's had an unusual time coming to terms with - that's not the right term, perhaps coming to transform what his country asked him to do  - and is now helping people understand their own motivations for actions in this lifetime.

So here are three examples of people that have served on our nation's behalf.  

A sniper whose life was devastated by the actions he committed, a sniper who believed with every fiber of his body that he was doing the right thing on his way to setting a record, and a sniper who set aside his rifle and focused on his ability to help and heal other individuals.

Unusual paths all. I bow in deep respect to their difficult choices. My two cents.






Overwhelming fear leads to confusion, uncertainty and depression. It narrows our view of the world and closes off the possibility of living a happy and purposeful life. When we are held back by fear we constantly doubt ourselves and our abilities. This fear shows up in our careers and our relationships, casting a shadow over everything and diminishing our dreams.



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