When you think of how you’ll spend Christmas Day, yours may be one you intend to spend stuffing your gullet with good food.
You’ll probably be soaking up the company of friends and family in the soft glow of post-gluttonous bliss and the dull twinkle of Christmas tree lights.
Your holiday plans might even include snuggling up on the couch to watch Christmas classics like Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life.
At least, that about sums up how I nearly always spend Dec. 25 with my loved ones.
So, I can see why people might consider it head-scratching that Warner Bros. Pictures would choose Christmas Day as the release date for American Sniper — the much-anticipated Clint Eastwood-directed film starring Bradley Cooper as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history.
Even one of my SheKnows cohorts, whom I love dearly and agree with on essentially everything from child-raising practices to the timeless brilliance of Seinfeld, has questioned the odd timing of the military biopic’s arrival in theaters.
And after watching the heart-thumping two-minute trailer in which the life of a young boy hangs in the balance, I was admittedly a bit dubious, too. But then a thought occurred to me… aren’t the holidays, perhaps, the perfect time to watch a movie like this?
It’s some heavy stuff, for sure. It will likely make you uncomfortable. You may outright disagree with the core sentiments the military men and women in the movie live by.
Should you still consider carving time out of your Christmas Day to go see it, though? Yes. Here’s why.
Regardless of how you feel about the military or about war, the very real truth is that we could not enjoy the freedoms we enjoy today without the sacrifices that have been made and continue to be made by military men and women willing to lay down their lives so that we can live ours.
And those freedoms we enjoy most definitely include Christmas Day in all its glory.
During his service as a U.S. Navy Seal, Chris Kyle (played here by Bradley Cooper) was shot twice. He was a victim of six IED explosions. He was awarded two Silver Star Medals, five Bronze Star Medals, one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
He served four tours in Iraq. Four. Can you imagine, during that time, how many Christmas Days he must have missed with his wife, Taya, and, later, their two young children?
I can’t imagine Kyle, a man who spoke openly about how grateful he was to have made it through his military service with his marriage intact, would begrudge anyone a Christmas spent at home cozied up to loved ones.
He, more than most, understood what it meant to miss those moments.
Still, if your holiday plans do include a trip to the movie theater this year, what better way to honor the men and women like Kyle, who can’t be with their families, than to watch a movie that asks people to thoughtfully consider the cost of devoting your life to your country and the reality of the reintegration process after?
Not only do these patriots often sacrifice their very lives on foreign soil, but the ones who do make it home face a long and arduous road ahead.
Kyle devoted much of his life after the military to helping other veterans find the light at the end of the tunnel. It was, in fact, what led to his death on U.S. soil at the hands of a troubled young veteran who inexplicably turned on his idol.
Before his death, Kyle was honest about the complexities of war and the toll it takes — not only on soldiers but on their loved ones, too.
Killing 160 people in the name of your country can’t be an easy thing to reconcile your heart to.
So, well, it won’t be the cheerful stuff you may have intended to fill your Christmas afternoon with. But it will push you to think about the high price military men and women pay for our freedom, and that just might be more filling this Christmas than a second helping of holiday ham.