When you work with the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, you expect focus but perhaps not so much funny.
Scott McEwen, the co-author of the best-selling autobiography “American Sniper” about the late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, said his subject kept his sense of humor despite being placed in some of the most stressful and life-threatening situations possible.
“His attitude of, ‘It could always be worse no matter what happens’ was something I found fascinating,” said the 51-year-old author. “That was kind of the way he was. He was a happy-go-lucky guy about his life with a great sense of humor. He has seen so many things in his life. But he felt no matter how down or devastating it appears to someone else, there is always worse stuff that could happen. Always keep that in mind.”
McEwen will speak at the Gallo Center for the Arts on Thursday. His appearance will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps severely injured service members as they transition to civilian life. He will discuss both his work on the No. 1 New York Times best-selling memoir and his experiences with Kyle.
In February of this year, Kyle and a friend were shot and killed at a shooting range in Texas by a 25-year-old Iraq War veteran who currently is awaiting trial for their murders.
Before his death, Kyle had a distinguished decade-long career in the military and served four tours in the Iraq War. He is the record-holding sniper with more than 150 confirmed kills (the previous American record was 109), though the Pentagon has not released his full total. Before being honorably discharged in 2009, Kyle was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation.
In 2012, his autobiography “American Sniper” was published with the help of co-authors McEwen and Jim DeFelice.
McEwen said he met Kyle through a mutual friend who was also a Navy SEAL. A corporate trial lawyer in San Digeo, McEwen had not written a book before but was taken by Kyle’s extraordinary life story.
“While listening to those war stories, I convinced him that he should write a memoir,” he said. “So much of his story was compelling. The more sensational of aspects were that he’d been involved in so much combat and racked up such astronomical numbers as a sniper. His shooting skills were just phenomenal. But what struck me as equally or not more important was that he cared more about how many guys on our side he saved, not how many bad guys he shot.”
The book also looks at Kyle’s family life, and how difficult it is for all military families during times of war. “American Sniper” took about two years to write. McEwen said the process was straightforward and that the hardest part was deciding what to leave out of Kyle’s action-packed real-life story.
The book’s success, McEwen said, can be attributed to Kyle’s heroics and the exceptional work of all Navy SEALS and U.S. military personnel.
“There was a chord of patriotism that struck people as unabashed,” he said. “It was just plain red, white and blue.”
McEwen, whose father was a fighter pilot in World War II, is donating his speaking fee for the Gallo stop to the Wounded Warrior Project and Navy SEALS Foundation. He said he was devastated by Kyle’s murder earlier this year.
“You know, all that I can do at this stage is try to carry the same message that Chris wanted to carry in his honor,” McEwen said. “That is a message of patriotism and message of support for our troops and their families.”
At his appearance, McEwen will discuss his work on “American Sniper” and sign copies of the book as well as his new fiction novel, “Sniper Elite.” He is working on a sequel to that novel and has another book project in the works with “Leading from Behind” author and President Obama critic Richard Miniter.
“This country should recognize that we have strong institutions like the military that are to be respected and coveted in day-to-day life,” McEwen said. “That message of support can go a lot of ways. I personally find it’s time for this country to really step up to the plate and get back to the ideals that makes it great. We are an exceptional nation with exceptional people that do exceptional things.”