A military colleague of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the slain veteran portrayed in the film “American Sniper,” urged a Long Island audience not to let Memorial Day car sales, beer commercials or barbecue picnics distract them from the sacrifices of America’s fallen troops.
“Behind every person, whether it is Chris or anyone else, there is a story to be told,” said Kevin Lacz, himself a former Navy SEAL medic who served with Kyle in a deadly deployment at the height of Iraq War fighting in 2006.
“We use “hero” pretty lightly nowadays,” said Lacz, who played himself in the 2014 film, after director Clint Eastwood sought his advice on portraying the work of Navy special operation forces during the Iraq War. “The true heroes if you ask me are the people who don’t make it home, the people who are willing to say, forget those other guys, take me.”
Lacz made his comments Monday at a pre-Memorial Day gathering at the newly-opened headquarters building of Northwell Health — previously known as the North Shore-LIJ Health System — in New Hyde Park. The luncheon gathering included dozens of military veterans who work for the 61,000-employee health care system.
Lacz and Kyle were serving together when their platoon was ambushed in Ramadi on Aug. 2, 2006. After one member of the platoon, Ryan “Biggles” Job, was shot in the eye, another SEAL, Marc Lee, voluntarily put himself in the line of gunfire to allow his fellow platoon members to escape.
Lee was killed that day. Job died of surgical complications three years later. A third member of Lacz’ platoon was killed a month and a half after that ambush, when he fell on a grenade to protect his platoon mates during a firefight. That Navy SEAL, Petty Officer Michael A. Monsoor, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
Kyle, who survived the deployment, was shot to death in 2013 by a Marine Corps veteran who had been in and out of mental institutions, and who was said to have been struggling with post traumatic stress. Kyle had been trying to help his eventual killer by taking him to a firing range.
“I don’t know if I could have done what Marc Lee did, or Ryan Job or Mike Monsoor who was in my platoon and willingly took a grenade for five guys on a rooftop and got the Medal of Honor,” Lacz said. “But I know those men are heroes. I know the thousands of men and women who didn’t make it back are heroes.”