American Sniper, the highest-grossing war movie of all time, forced this audience member to pause and consider the complicated homecoming our soldiers face as they try to regain their civilian lives. The theater where I sat with my friend Annette was pin-drop silent as the credits began to roll; people stayed in their seats, weighed down by the enormity of the Chris Kyle story.

Because my world tends to revolve around my work (seriously, I can’t turn it off), parallels immediately came to mind connecting Navy SEAL sniper Kyle and another famous warrior with his own troubled homecoming – Odysseus, king of Ithaca.

Over dinner that night, Annette and I determined that Chris Kyle and Odysseus both:
– loved their wives.
– left infants at home when called to fight abroad.
– narrowly escaped death numerous times.
– were legendary among their comrades.
– returned to a homeland more troubled than they could have imagined.

My students are setting sail with Odysseus and his crew this week and we’ll travel the Mediterranean for the next month. At the end of the journey, we’ll discuss the realities that soldiers face as they return from the battlefield and we’ll learn about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Finally, I’ll have my students become psychiatrists-in-training with a review activity that will have them digging back into the text to determine whether Odysseus does or does not qualify for PTSD treatment. My print-and-teach materials are available here, if you want to take a look.

Teach on, everyone!

Sample

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. I don’t know if you’ll be bringing the movie into your classroom (I think it has a rating that would disallow it in our school) but it also brings in an interesting parallel in that Odysseus is praised for his quick tongue and does not always tell the exact truth and Chris Kyle’s estate lost the defamation suit leveled by Governor Ventura.
    Also of interest: Have we elevated Kyle’s narrative into myth?

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  2. Thanks for commenting, Jean. Nope, the film won’t be able to be used in class (R rating = no way!), but my freshmen were well-aware of the film and Kyle’s murder trial so we were able to have a solid discussion when I used this assignment last month. You raise great questions about mythology and the power of media. I know Kyle’s widow is now on her own book tour and it’s been fascinating to watch the lens different media outlets use when discussing Kyle. Great topical material to bring into our classrooms.

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