It's Oscar Sunday, and we'll soon learn which movie wins best picture. Among those nominated is Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, based on the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. In March, Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins will release A Warrior's Faith by Robert Vera. It is a memoir about Vera's relationship with Navy SEAL Ryan "Biggles'' Job, a central character in the movie. Job was shot in the face on a rooftop in Ramadi, Iraq, and permanently blinded.
Vera and Job met and became friends after Job returned to the States for facial reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation and settled in Scottsdale, Ariz. Vera, a writer and photographer who is active in Camp Patriot, a provider of outdoor therapy programs to wounded and disabled veterans, trained with Job, supporting him in his successful hike to the summit of Mount Rainier.
When Job died in 2009, hundreds of Navy SEALs came to the funeral in Scottsdale, where Vera, 49, gave the eulogy. Vera also attended the funeral of Chris Kyle in 2013. During the funeral procession that went from Midlothian, Texas, to Austin, hundreds of people lined the roads with signs recognizing Kyle, recalled Vera. "What was great was that his family saw the pride that Texas had for Chris and for all service members.''
What's on your nightstand?
The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader by Jason Redman (with John R. Bruning). Jason speaks about his experience of being severely wounded in Iraq. The memoir traces the trajectory of his life, and perhaps is one of the most honest reviews that anyone has written on becoming a Navy SEAL. He was struck by enemy gun fire. He was shot in the face, and it's just an incredible tale of survival. It shows how he uses adversity to better himself. While he was in the hospital, he set up a nonprofit to help other veterans. I also want to mention Get It On! by Keni Thomas. If you're familiar with Black Hawk Down, he was the leader for Task Force Ranger. It is about how that experience changed him and the leadership lessons he learned. He's now a country music star. He traded a rifle for a guitar.
Here's a question on your writing. How easily did the conversations come with Job?
The person I write about was a close personal friend. He was severely wounded and he was made blind. Along with that, though, he had a great sense of humor. His humor was one of his greatest weapons. Ryan could defuse anybody with a one-liner. There were many times when I had to pull off the road because I was laughing so hard.
What do you think of the movie's portrayal of the real-life events?
I think the movie does one thing really well. It shows the audience that the real war is right here at home. These soldiers come home and they fight a different war, one that is more dangerous for them. They have to overcome so many things, and they may not have the support they once had with the military community. When I looked around at the end of the movie, everyone was crying. That was the most powerful part for me, to see these strangers who didn't know Ryan or Chris crying. They felt the loss. That's what the movie got right
Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] or (727) 445-4163. Follow @Florida_PBJC.