Stephen Hunter’s tribute to Carlos Hathcock, a true American hero

I wrote last week about “Two major pieces of wisdom from Bob Lee Swagger and Stephen Hunter,” and I wanted to do a quick follow up.

A long-time reader and friend of the blog (Old Gyrene) pointed out in the comments another piece of beautiful writing from Stephen Hunter that I was unaware of.

In the piece, Hunter writes just an amazing tribute to Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock, one of America’s most famous Vietnam veterans.

Here’s the piece: The sniper with a steadfast aim.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things that either motivate you, inspire you, or make you laugh.

Two major pieces of wisdom from Bob Lee Swagger and Stephen Hunter

Stephen Hunter crafts some of the best books out there, and he easily ranks among my favorite authors.

I studied his novels extensively as I undertook the more mature phase of my writing career in my early twenties, and I’m now re-reading “Point of Impact” for at least the fourth or fifth time.

Quick sidenote: For those who don’t know, Hunter created Bob Lee Swagger for Point of Impact, as well as the books that follow in the series. And Swagger, aka “Bob the Nailer,” remains one of the best and most iconic characters you’ll find anywhere.

Here are two major pieces of wisdom from the great Marine Sniper, Bob Lee Swagger, that I just unearthed. Please note, in both scenes he’s describing a trophy buck that lives up above him, and that he’s named Old Tim.

First piece of wisdom: Strive to be tough

“Old Tim, scarred and beat up, with many an adventure behind him. Tim would be alone, too: Tim didn’t have a harem, and didn’t need one anymore. One year Tim had had a prong of antler shot off by some lucky city dick from Little Rock and looked out of balance for a whole season. Tim had limped another whole year because Sam Vincent, not as spry as once he’d been, had held sloppy and put a .45-70 softpoint — too much gun, but Sam loved that old Winchester — into his haunches, and only bled him bad enough to kill any normal buck.

“Tim was tough, Bob knew, and that was the kindest word he had for anybody, living or dead.”

Second piece of wisdom: Live in the present

“Bob loved their magic. When he had hunted men, there was no magic. Men were stupid. They farted and yakked and gave themselves away miles before they moved into the killing zone.

“But the deer, particularly the old Ouachita stags, appeared like ghosts, simply exploding out of brushy nothingness, as if they were superior visitors from another planet. And they were superior, in their way, Bob knew: their senses were so razor keen, everything focused on the next two minutes. That was their secret. They didn’t think about the last two minutes, which had ceased entirely to exist in the second after they were experienced, had evaporated entirely. They only thought about the next two minutes. No past, no real future. There was only now.”

One final endnote. For those who hate the thought of Bob Lee Swagger killing this fine deer, fear not. Bob only shoots it with a plastic bullet designed to stun the deer. And each year, he hunts it, shoots it in the spine with this plastic bullet, and then in the few minutes that it’s immobile, he saws off its antlers.

Bob doesn’t believe in killing, and he hates the thought that scores of hunters ascend into the mountains to kill this trophy buck. So his act of hunting and removing its trophy rack is one of mercy.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things that either motivate you, inspire you, or make you laugh.

“American Sniper,” the Movie

WARNING: SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS

Do not continue reading if you haven’t seen the movie…

Now, with those warnings out of the way, let’s begin. I’m really wanting to discuss this movie with some of you all, so let’s open the bar and have a good conversation…

I’m dying to know your all’s thoughts about the movie…

I finally saw it tonight and I’m really torn about how I feel about it.

On the one hand, it’s a good movie. Maybe even a great one, if you haven’t read the book first. (In fact, almost all of my problems result from me having read the book first, I think.)

But I left the movie pretty torn about it. And one of the things I was most frustrated about was how complete it was. What I mean is that the movie, while mostly based on truth, turns Chris Kyle’s four tours into more a test of endurance in search of this phantom, super-talented enemy sniper. On the one hand, using this device gives the movie some suspense and a thrill to it. You pull for Chris Kyle. You understand why he has to go back.

On the other, it’s not true, and war is never about such a test. (Or rarely, at best.) War at the individual ground level is about disappointment, boredom, sacrifice, pain, sweat, hurry-up-and-wait, and life-altering meaningless broken up by soul-exploding violence, which marks and scars you forever.

“American Sniper,” the movie, gets much of this right, but it sells Chris Kyle’s life short. The greater story is that, in reality, Chris Kyle went back for four tours without any of this fake meaning or suspense. It was nothing on Kyle’s part but pure sacrifice and service, over-and-over and over-and-over. Four times.

Granted, such a movie wouldn’t set box-office records, so perhaps I should just shut up. After all, the current version with its suspenseful angle is certainly telling his story in probably the largest (and broadest) way possible.

But in my mind, Chris Kyle’s story is far greater because I’m confident he learned the truth about war and its soul-ripping meaninglessness on his first tour, and he STILL went back three more times. Not to hunt some phantom sniper mentioned in only a single paragraph of the book, who Kyle never even shot, but to answer that bitch named “Duty.”

Chris Kyle knew the price of real war, and he paid it. In spades. He nearly sacrificed his marriage. He missed much of his kids’ early days. And he endured “three gunshot wounds, two helicopter crashes, six IED attacks, and numerous surgeries.”

He didn’t do that to kill some phantom sniper that was killing dozens of Marines and soldiers. He didn’t do that to set some sniper record for most kills.

He did it because he was one in ten million. Maybe one in one hundred million. And that’s the bigger story in my opinion.

Even more crazy is that the most lethal sniper in American history almost certainly would have served more tours if hadn’t departed the SEALs to save his marriage…

Chris Kyle was special, and his real life was much greater than even the incredible image portrayed in the movie.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

What are your thoughts? Am I off-base and being too critical? What did you think of the movie?

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things that either motivate you, inspire you, or make you laugh.