I never saw a sniper as a hero. I don’t think many Americans did either. That is, until someone made a movie about one of them that fought for “our side.”
Most of us only knew snipers from the enemy’s side, or from those we collectively put into the “bad guy” category. Lee Harvey Oswald comes to mind. He shot and killed John F Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, a day that will live in infamy for all of us who remember the book depository building where the sniper patiently waited with rifle scope “dead on” the skull of the youngest man ever elected president.
No one –( except maybe the mafia, someone from Cuba, or even the CIA who may have put the sniper up to such a devilish deed, according to Oliver Stone) — would ever view his actions as “heroic.” No one from Austen living in 1966 would ever see “The Texas Bell Tower Sniper” as a hero. No one from Washington DC in 2002 who remembers the ten people the Beltway Sniper killed would elevate him to the status of hero. (Look it up if you don’t believe me!)
Another sniper America might remember is one from the movie “The Manchurian Candidate.” That’s where a bunch of American soldiers in the Korean War are captured and brainwashed. One was programmed to kill a politician almost certain to win the nomination for the presidency, thereby elevating a communist puppet to possibly become the next leader of the free world. Frank Sinatra spoiled the aim of the sniper and movie goers all applauded the killing of the sniper.
The only good sniper I have ever encountered was from a book by Stephen King. In the “Dead Zone,” which also became a movie, the hero develops a special power that lets him see into the future. He sees a politician plunge the world into nuclear chaos by bombing the enemy.
(Yes, this is another one running for president!) The hero poses the question: If you could go back into time, would you kill Hitler? Kill Hitler before he committed any of his atrocities?
The hero answers that question with a rifle that he uses while hiding in a balcony to shoot at the presidential candidate. Things go awry, and the sniper is prevented from killing the man. The slick politician, played by Martin Sheen before “serving” as the president on the “West Wing,” picks up a baby and holds the infant in front to protect himself from the possible shot. The sniper is killed and so is Sheen’s political future when a photographer captures the moment and the picture of the politician holding the baby up to the gun man appears on the cover of Time magazine.
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A sniper once tried to kill me.
A sniper did kill one of my comrade-in-arms.
We were both junior officers — lieutenants — in the Vietnam War. The sniper wanted to cause chaos among the ranks by taking us out, the leaders.
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I have had no love for snipers. I know of no American snipers who ever became heroes in that war or any other war. That is, until today.
Snipers are a necessary evil in war. I wouldn’t call them cowards, but I could understand how a loved one could label ’em that way after they killed a spouse, a father or an uncle, or your son or your brother. Don’t tell them a sniper could ever be a hero.
(For another look at a sniper attack on Contoveros, please see the following: