At least once every week I suggest a must-read book to one of my students, and at least more than once a week a student suggests a book that they think I should read.
Recently, I had Chris Kyle’s autobiography, American Sniper, suggested to me by one of my military students, studying Business, who knew the author. Chris Kyle was labeled “the most lethal sniper in the U.S. military history.” What did I know about being a sniper in the Middle East prior to reading his book? Nothing. Besides the information that I received from the news, I was uneducated in what was really going on overseas. This is not easy to admit, but I’m admitting it.
After reading Kyle’s book I not only learned what it meant to be a sniper and a Navy SEAL, but about the other branches: the Army, the Air Force, Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard, and how they play/ed a role. The one phrase I kept repeating aloud as I read his book was “I didn’t know that.”
As I turned each page, I could feel the heat rise, from 105 at night to 112 in the morning as Kyle, the gritty, I-will-tell-you-like-it-is Texan, took me with him to rooftops, abandoned houses, and a ramshackled banana factory where he would perch his gun, wait, aim, shoot, and kill. I learned what it meant to Kyle, and even more important, about what it meant to many of my military students through his experiences to serve and protect the United States and its citizens after 9/11 and what they had to sacrifice in doing so.
Will I ever truly understand what they have gone through?
No. But that is not the point; the point is I’m trying. Globe University is one of the most military-friendly schools I have ever taught at, and I think it is because we try to not only aid military students, we make an effort to listen and try to understand where they have been and where they hope to be post-graduation.
How can instructors reach out to military students? Three simple ways: 1) read, 2) listen, and 3) listen some more. Let your students share their own stories.
On the very last page of Kyle’s autobiography, he writes, “When people ask me how the war changed me, I tell them that the biggest thing has to do with my perspective. You know all the everyday things that stress you here? I don’t give a s[***] about them. There are bigger and worse things that could happen than to have this tiny little problem wreck your life, or even your day. I’ve seen them more: I’ve lived them” (327).
I have expanded my perspective, and I’m ready to expand it further. There are many more stories out there besides Kyle’s, and I’m eager to listen.
Kyle, Chris. (2012). American sniper: Autobiography of the most lethal sniper in U.S. Military history. New York, NY: William Morrow.