Although I didn't have the privilege of serving on the same Team with Chris while I was part of the SEAL community, we did get to know each other quite well after leaving the Navy. Chris and I also worked together on NBC's reality show Stars Earn Stripes, where we, and other special-operations professionals, were paired with celebrities like Nick Lachey, Terry Crews, Dean Cain, and Todd Palin. The show successfully raised significant amounts of money for important charities like Wounded Warrior Project. I read Chris's book while we were filming the show, which allowed us plenty of time for dialogue and analysis.
When I learned that they were making a movie based on Chris's book, the usual thought entered my mind: Is Hollywood going to accurately depict his character and the story that needs to be told? I can assure everyone that the answer to that question is unequivocally, yes. I had the opportunity to get an early copy of the film and have watched it eight times--my wife eventually pulled the plug on that pity party.
The way the film was directed, coupled with outstanding performances by Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, and the rest of the cast, made for a heart wrenching and deeply accurate portrayal of the external and internal battles our service men and women face. Not to mention the even greater sacrifices made by the families and loved ones back home.
One of the key reasons this film is so impactful, compared to other war movies, is that it spends a considerable amount of time on character development and really letting the audience know who Chris and Taya were (and will always be) as two united souls. In essence, you are watching not just a war movie but a love story. You get a real understanding of the pain of loss and sacrifice and the strength required to be a family that serves our country during wartime.
And then of course there is Bradley Cooper's portrayal of Chris. I have watched several interviews with Bradley and Taya now, in addition to chatting with other Team guys in the community, and all, including myself, have said the same thing: "There are times when I forgot I was watching Bradley Cooper and not Chris himself." In my opinion, Cooper's performance did a great honor to Chris's memory and the SEAL community as a whole.
Cooper captured everything from Chris's wonderful Texas drawl, southern charm, and tendency for marginal political incorrectness, to the permanent lump of Copenhagen that forever blessed his bottom lip. For lack of a better term, it was perfect. Even while filming Stars Earn Stripes, producers would beg Chris to remove his dip, but he never did. And as they say, the show must go on. God bless you, Chris.
I can't forget to mention Sienna Miller's portrayal of Taya, either. Taya provided Sienna every email and letter the two exchanged during his four deployments, giving her a solid framework for the deep love and connection they had, as well as the struggles associated with that level of service.
Not long after we filmed the show, Chris was tragically murdered on a gun range outside of Dallas. One of the ways Chris continued to serve after getting out was to mentor other young veterans who were injured or struggling with PTSD. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished. He was shot by the very person he was trying to help. I supposed God was calling him home, but it's hard to make sense of things like that.
My wife, family, and I had the privilege of attending his funeral at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, where hundreds of friends, family, and members of the SEAL community gathered to pay their respects. His former teammates and family gave many wonderful speeches honoring "The Legend." I encourage everyone, even the faint of heart, to see this film.