LAST MONTH the movie "American Sniper" opened nationwide with a record box office of $90 million, shattering previous box-office records for January releases. Since its release some controversy has surrounded the movie, and much of the coverage of the movie lately has been related to these controversies.
What is lost in this coverage, and much of the discussion of the movie, is the very real depiction of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle's struggles with transitioning to civilian life.
"American Sniper" portrays Kyle not only during his four tours in Iraq but also in his struggle to return home to a wife, and later a family, that does not fully understand what he has experienced. Kyle is detached and uneasy at home, feeling that he should be back on the battlefield helping to protect his fellow soldiers, and fighting "the bad guys." His inability to disconnect from the battlefield worsens as the movie progresses and he displays more signs of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Kyle's struggles are not fiction, nor are they unique. There are thousands of veterans across the Greater Philadelphia region who have come home from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, or even stateside, who are now facing the challenges of transitioning to life as a civilian, including gaining civilian employment.
Typically, these veterans find themselves trying to reintegrate into civilian life in multiple arenas: parenting their children, being a spouse, gaining employment and figuring out the direction they wish to pursue. Their service has changed them, and the world they return to has changed in their absence. The reintegration is not as simple or smooth as we would imagine or hope.
Veterans often benefit from support in negotiating these multiple transitions. Programs like PathWays PA's HeroesPath - offering veterans a single point of contact and "no wrong door" approach to accessing education, job training, public benefits and key supportive services - play a critical role in ensuring a successful transition. HeroesPath provides veterans with customized, comprehensive guidance through the transition into civilian life and employment.
During his State of the Union address, President Obama said, "As a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American dream they helped defend." It is incumbent upon us to ensure that opportunity. HeroesPath plays a critical role in helping veterans live the American dream by providing the support and assistance necessary to successfully transition into civilian life and careers.
In the months ahead, "American Sniper" will leave movie theaters, and Oscar buzz will fade away, but veterans will continue to need support through programs like HeroesPath to ensure a successful transition from the service into civilian life. Our federal and local legislators should support these programs so that veterans like Chris Kyle have the greatest opportunity to succeed in their American dream when they come home.