PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — A former Navy SEAL who played himself in the blockbuster movie "American Sniper" hopes to take readers beyond the Hollywood lens in his new book, "The Last Punisher."
Kevin Lacz served in SEAL Team Three with Chris Kyle, portrayed by Bradley Cooper in the 2014 movie. Lacz, who consulted with Cooper and director Clint Eastwood during the filming of "American Sniper," said he hopes to give his readers a more in-depth and realistic look at combat and military service.
"There are so many inaccuracies in a Hollywood movie, even if you have technical advisers or people like Chris, who was part of the screenwriting process," Lacz said during an interview at his office in Orange Beach, Alabama, where he is a physician assistant and partner in a lifestyle performance medicine clinic. The clinic also has an office in Pensacola.
His book is selling out at area stores and climbing bestseller lists; it is listed by the New York Times and USA Today.
The book, focusing on the 2006 battle for Iraqi city of Ramadi, was co-written by combat correspondent Ethan Rocke and Lacz' wife, Lindsey.
Lacz said the trio wanted to tell the story about the many people who contributed to the SEAL teams' missions in Iraq. Lacz served as SEAL sniper and a medic in Ramadi. The book's title is a tribute the The Punishers, the moniker given to his famed SEAL unit.
The story is about the unit, he said.
"It is not a self-aggrandizing approach to combat. I write about times when I mess up. The book is meant more to relate to the individual reader than to be put on a pedestal," he said. "We wanted show what the brotherhood meant. This book is dedicated to the guys who didn't come back. The brotherhood was huge for Chris and we don't get a lot of that in 'American Sniper' because it was meant to be a character study where you get the tragic war hero."
Lacz also hopes to dispel myths about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome among combat veterans.
Many people who learn about his military service thank him for his service and say that they are sorry that he had to go through the experiences of combat, he said.
"I really don't know how to respond to that because I enjoyed my time in the service. I learned a lot and I learned a lot about myself. I felt it was more positive than a lot of people were giving it credit for," he said.
Not all veterans return from combat with PTSD, he said.
"I know as a health care provider that (PTSD) is a special thing that we need to give our attention to, but I think we do a disservice to those who have it to say that everyone who goes overseas has PTSD or to imply that is the case. When you assume everyone has it, you do a disservice to those who don't have it," he said.
Lacz is among the numerous former SEALS who have written books, taken paid speaking engagements or contributed to film projects in recent years. Lacz, who joked that SEALS have written more books than Marines have read, said many question why the members of the elite and secretive special operations units choose to go public with their experiences. He said his goal is to be a good steward of the reputation of Navy SEALS and to inspire others by sharing his experiences.
Since the Vietnam era, a smaller and smaller percentage of Americans have served in the military, he said.
"So we are sitting on our couches watching what happens in Iraq and Syria and we don't have a connection to the battlefield because less and less people serve. We are 350 million people and we depend on less than 1 percent to shoulder the burden. In the book we wanted give people a feel for what it is like, to give them a real appreciation for what people do overseas and why they do it," he said.
The book was cleared by military and intelligence officials before it was released, he said.
Lacz also hopes to encourage a new generation to serve in the military.
"If we don't inspire the next generation to go ahead and do that job and we constantly say that war is bad and it hurts you, then who is left to fight and defend this country?" said Lacz, who added that "America is losing alpha males faster than the icebergs are melting."
It takes a unique type of alpha male to make it through the ultra competitive SEAL training, he said. He joked that he is so competitive that he recently found himself trying to beat his 6-year-old in the card game UNO.
But he said the life skill that most helped him succeed in SEAL training was having failed at something else in life, his initial attempt to go to college and become a doctor. Despite being a good student in high school, he had trouble when he first attempted college.
"I think that sort of resiliency helps you when it it comes to training that is 80 percent above the neck. There is a certain level of physical fitness that you have to have to make it through, but a lot of it is mental. That mental fortitude and being able to understand failure and process failure and be able to turn failure in a positive direction is important," he said.
Information from: Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, http://www.pensacolanewsjournal.com
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