Cinema offers private viewing for combat vets
By ROY MERCON
For The Essex Reporter
Franklin County members of the Combat Veteran’s Motorcycle Association, Chapter 26-2 were among those recently given tickets to see the blockbuster and controversial movie “American Sniper.”
Essex Cinemas made a special offer of tickets and the CVMA shared its largess with additional veterans from outside of its group. A private viewing allowed for a more familial experience with the veterans knowing that only those that have experienced combat were present.
Some of the veterans who attended the screening were survivors of conflicts in various conflict zones and could speak to the authenticity of the movie, which profiles the exploits and life of the highest-kill military sniper in U.S. history, the late Chris Kyle.
“Being in similar scenarios, it was obvious to me what was real and what wasn’t,” said David Eckert, chapter commander and Vietnam Veteran. He said that those without combat experience might get an overblown idea of how combat actually works, but the underlying message of how the experiences affect civilian life was accurate.
“Obviously, from a thematic standpoint, they wanted to make it dramatic,” said Eckert, referring to the creators of the film. “They didn’t show all of the downtime. The movie was ‘go, go go’ all the time, and the reality is quite different.”
Kyle was a U.S. Navy SEAL and had 160 confirmed kills as a sniper. He served four tours in Iraq, and was killed, along with another veteran, Chad Littlefield, at a shooting range in Texas in 2013. The pair had been working with veterans who were having difficulties integrating back into society. The shooter in that incident was a fellow veteran who suffered mental health troubles and claimed to have been delusional at the time.
The decision to include fellow veterans at the film viewing in Essex was an easy one for the Combat Vets Association, said Laura Reed, the CVMA chapter’s public affairs representative.
The impression left on the veterans who attended the screening was mostly positive, she said. Some of those in attendance are receiving assistance through programs at the Veterans’ Place and they elected not to speak on the record.
The Veterans’ Place is a transitional housing facility combined with assistive services for homeless veterans in Central Vermont. Able to house 25 veterans for a period of two-years, the facility provides “desperately needed resources in an all-in-one locale so these Veterans may regain their pride, reach their full potential, and once again become contributing members of society,” according to its website.
‘American Sniper’ has garnered plenty of conversation recently, thanks in part to the current real-world trial involving Kyle’s killer, a mentally disturbed Eddie Ray Routh, who was convicted of murder in a Texas courtroom on Wednesday and immediately sentenced to life in prison.
The movie has crossed the $300 million box office revenue mark, making it Warner Bros.’ fifth-highest-grossing film in the domestic box office ever.
Skip Tony, marketing director of Essex Cinemas, said that the needs of the community’s military members were in the forefront when the theater, to his knowledge, became the only one in the area offering a discount for current and former military members who wished to see the film. It also donated tickets to veterans and veteran-based organizations. He stressed that the business made the offer not to receive recognition from the community but because those that work for and with the theater are community-oriented.
“We gave the tickets to combat veterans because they deserve it,” said Tony.
Roy Mercon is a correspondent writer for The St. Albans Messenger, a sister publication of The Essex Reporter and member of the Champlain Valley Newspaper Group.