Shannon McConathy, moderngunneronline.com
Last night after three hours of closing comments and two and a half hours of jury deliberation, Eddie Ray Routh, the man who admitted to shooting Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield in the back at a Texas gun range, was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. Shortly after the ruling and subsequent sentence was announced, I watched social media react to incredibly emotional decision.
“Justice for Chris Kyle!”
“He got what he deserved!”
I in no way speak for the Kyle or Littlefield families. All I know of their wishes is what was shared through the news media. Based on those reports, I do believe these families were awarded the justice they sought, but when considering why Kyle and Littlefield were at that Erath County, Texas gun range with Routh that day, I wonder, “Is this really is justice for Chris Kyle?”
The release of the film adaptation of Kyle’s book American Sniper kicked up a storm of debate centered on the veracity of many of Kyle’s claims both in combat and at home. As with all military debates, opinions vary on what constitutes a hero. Some see his confirmed kills as the mark of a hero serving his country with honor and selflessness. Others have accused him of being a murderer. To me, the debate of whether or not Routh’s life sentence marked justice for Kyle and Littlefield has little to do with either. It has everything to do with the mission of caring for veterans returning home from the horrors of war and what our government isn’t doing.
I would argue that Routh’s life sentence is, until the inevitable appeal, closure for the loved ones left behind but neither Kyle nor Littlefield will see their deaths vindicated until we have a VA system that isn’t wrought with corruption and incompetency. Justice will be served for two men I do consider heros when we as a society take a realistic look at PTSD and what we can do to treat it and care for its victims rather than stigmatizing and fearing it. I believe their legacies will find more retribution in a system where veterans are able to receive help and earned benefits more expediently rather than being mired in red tape.
When I think about the fact that two men- at the request of Routh’s mother- set out to help someone who was damaged and in need of help, it infuriates me that they lost their lives for their effort. It only makes sense he should be punished, but I feel there is blood on more than Routh’s hands.
By all accounts, Eddie Ray Routh was mentally disturbed. His defense plead innocent by insanity and at least one doctor corroborated that story. The psychiatrist for the prosecution argued that while Routh suffered from a “mood disorder” it was exacerbated by drug use and the suspect still knew right from wrong and should therefore be held accountable for the two murders for which he claimed responsibility.
Courtroom reports go on to explain that Routh never experienced direct combat and Iraq and his accounts of his time in Haiti were likely untrue. Perhaps he was faking PTSD- a possibility I find as egregious as Stolen Valor. But if his experiences didn’t lead to his disorder, how does a man circumvent screenings and regulations to make it into the military in the first place? How do we determine who is and isn’t fit for duty?
It was commonly explained during trial coverage that Routh had been treated by the VA on two occasions for mental disorders. It’s hard to accept that he merely “slipped through the cracks” when the the widespread failures of the Veterans Administration have been so exposed. It’s impossible to know whether or not better medical treatment for Routh could have prevented the deaths of Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield. Positive strides in the identification and treatment of the mentally ill applicants and veterans won’t bring back their lives, but would do more in the vindication of their deaths.
Shannon McConathy is the managing editor of ModernGunnerOnline.com. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Media Arts from the University of North Texas. She is an ardent supporter of our military and law enforcement and her favorite caliber is .45ACP.