Vets criticize bill to award Medal of Honor to 'American Sniper'

Vets criticize bill to award Medal of Honor to 'American Sniper'
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Veterans are expressing unease at a bill calling for late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, whose story was depicted in the film "American Sniper," to be honored posthumously with a Medal of Honor.

Retired Army Sgt. First Class Jonn Lilyea, who founded and runs the blog "This Ain't Hell," wrote Friday that the bill is a "political stunt."

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"There was no effort to get him the award while he was alive, before there was a book, before there was a movie. I’m not saying that he doesn’t deserve the award, but I’m thinking that he would be the first to disabuse folks of the notion," wrote Lilyea. 

The bill from Rep. Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today CPAC attendees say Biden poses greatest threat to Trump Don’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall MORE (R-Texas) calls for the president to award "our nation's highest military honor to a Texan who served this nation with distinction and bravery."

“Chris Kyle is someone we should strive to be. He is a true American patriot whose acts of valor must be permanently etched in our nation’s history," Williams said. 

Kyle became a national figure after writing a memoir — the basis for the hit movie, where he was portrayed by actor Bradley Cooper.

Kyle was killed by a former Marine he was trying to help, Eddie Ray Routh, who was sentenced this week to life in prison in a high-profile trial. 

Some veterans took to Twitter to criticize the legislation.

Lilyea said the bill was more about politics than recognizing Kyle.

"It just struck me wrong that in the midst of all this media chatter about Chris Kyle ... it seems to be more of a populist action than any kind of tribute to his military service," he told The Hill in a phone interview Friday.

Lilyea said he expected a backlash from his readers, most of whom are veterans, but many of them apparently agree with him. 

One commenter on his blog wrote, "Much respect for Chris Kyle, [but] if he merited the MOH [Medal of Honor], then it should have been processed by his Command at that time. Its not time now to combine all he has done and give him the MOH because he was killed while a civilian and by a civilian." 

Lilyea, who served as an infantry platoon sergeant in the first Gulf War, wrote "there is no one who is more defensive of Chris Kyle’s legacy than me," but "there are hundreds of members of the military whose martial biographies are similar, but they don't have a best selling book and a blockbuster movie." 

Lilyea said veterans groups have battled to get service members like Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael Peralta and Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe the Medal of Honor, and it's been a difficult fight. 

Rather, it should be up to the Navy to decide if Kyle should be awarded a Medal of Honor, not the president. The Navy has already honored Kyle with two Silver Stars, two levels below the Medal of Honor, and five Bronze stars with valor, he said. 

"That's what they decided he deserved in the Navy, and that probably should be the extent of it," said Lilyea. 

Williams acknowledged that the Medal of Honor has only been awarded 3,507 times, but said, "I challenge someone to tell me Chris Kyle didn’t exude the bravery that is a prerequisite for this high honor." 

“I challenge anyone to tell me that his courageous acts are undeserving of this recognition," he added.

The Texas lawmaker is standing by his bill.

"Congressman Williams has said he felt it was best to introduce his bill after the murder trial. He believes Chris Kyle demonstrated bravery and committed acts of valor when he saved many American lives during his four tours in Iraq, and it is the congressman’s intention for specific events to be reviewed during the consideration process,” said a Williams spokesperson in a statement.

“There is precedent for Congress to recommend someone for the Medal of Honor by way of legislation and recommending Chris Kyle for the Medal of Honor is what Congressman Williams is doing."

This story was updated at 4:14 p.m.