CONTRASTS IN COURAGE: A Tale of Two American Heroes

Soldier Flower Gun Boy by Bansky


Suffering under the weight of disturbing news to start 2015, I am struck by two news items that rather sum up the current state of our society. These stories are about two American heroes and their failure to be safe from violence. Both individuals have been cited for bravery and honored with accolades from the famous and powerful. For one the story has become a movie box office hit, with the highest take for a war movie to-date. For the other, a quiet and solemn mourning and awakening by millions who have witnessed a lesson of building peace through courage.

“American Sniper” is the tale of Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL whose pinpoint accuracy with weapons made him one of the most lethal U.S. military sharpshooters of all time. Kyle’s stealth aims eliminated more than 150 targets. His brother, remarking on Fox News, talked about Chris being a patriot who loved killing our enemies. Jeff Kyle said his brother was a ‘savior’ protecting his fellow soldiers. Chris met his untimely death at the hands of a deranged marksman who shot the hero at a gun range. His murder is a tragic irony, coming at the hands of a fellow soldier, a U.S. Marine.

Kayla Mueller was a humanitarian who said that she saw God in suffering. She died as a hostage of the Islamic State. Her determination to be a humanitarian aid worker meant that she would be in harm’s way. Kayla was fearless in the face of savage atrocities by Islamic extremists who denied life by torching and beheading its captives. In a letter home, Mueller said that she had no fear or remorse for being an emissary of peace. Upon learning of her death, the President said. “Kayla represents what is best about America, and expressed her deep pride in the freedoms we Americans enjoy and that so many strive for around the world.”

There is no future in war; it is not a way for humans to survive. And, now as the warlords beat their angry drums louder, some in memory of these two heroes, we are left with a realization that the Arab notion of an eye for an eye is a blinding proposition. At home, we have seen a man who talked of peace and became President of the United States have to look war in the face and accept it. We have such a sophisticated war and national security apparatus built around fear orchestrated by clever barbarians that we are forcing our interpretations of patriotism into an aggressive and violent prism. But, then, we have a young brave woman, captured by guerillas of war writing to her family that she is strong and without fear.

I am a more spiritual than religious person and find myself drawn to bravery that exhibits strength with a humanitarian consciousness. Nonetheless, the bible delivers us a rather poignant hint about how Christians should act in these troubling times. In Matthew 5:3–12, during the Sermon on the Mount, we receive one the beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.”  Kayla said to her family that she saw God in suffering. She practiced peace as a spiritual alternative to violence in her midst. 

Two heroes have walked different paths to honor and share the national limelight. One is a man who through pop media is inspiring red-blooded Americans to accept the escalation of violence; another, a woman who viewed patriotism as peace, showing us all how to become a child of God in order to ensure the survival of humankind. 


Valsin A. Marmillion, blogs for peaceXpiece, is a national strategic planning consultant and an avid boater living in Key West, FL.