Veterans group brings Navy SEAL to special event.
As the mother of two veterans, Patti Smith was moved by the 2014 blockbuster “American Sniper.”
Smith, the founder of Central Illinois Gold Star Families, a local nonprofit that benefits the surviving families of deceased servicemen and women, said she saw the movie three times in five days, beginning with opening night.
Now, Smith and Gold Star Families are bringing one of the movie’s stars — who portrayed himself — to Washington.
Navy SEAL and “American Sniper” co-star Kevin “Dauber” Lacz will appear Oct. 2 at Five Points Washington, appearing for a VIP event at 5:30 p.m. and delivering a keynote address, which is open to the public, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25.
Smith said it didn’t take long for the film — based on the autobiography by U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history — to resonate with Smith.
“As proud mother of two U.S. Marines, I was fascinated with the movie on several levels as my sons fought together in Iraq during the same period and same cities the film takes place,” Smith said.
At the same time, Smith said, she was searching for a special speaker to appear at Gold Star Families’ annual commemoration event.
That’s when she reached out to Lacz, himself a Navy SEAL who not only served alongside Kyle, but co-starred on the movie based on his friend’s life.
“It took a little persistence, actually, as my first two emails received no response,” Smith said. “I thought it was a stretch to get him here, but thought, ‘He can only say no.’ After my third attempt, I got a response and didn’t let go after that!”
Like the families represented by Gold Star Families, Lacz understands what it means to lose someone close. Kyle died Feb. 2, 2013, after being shot and killed at a shooting range near Chalk Mountain, Texas.
“... Kevin has demonstrated through all of our communication genuine compassion for gold star families,” Smith said. “He knows firsthand the scars of devastating loss on both the battlefield and at home. Kevin spoke with his close friend, Chris Kyle, one morning, and later that day he was gone.”
Smith said events such as the “American Sniper” help raise awareness on the importance of caring for those who have lost.
“It is our goal that the ‘American Sniper’ event will bring awareness to those in attendance of the many families of the fallen who live among us and our social responsibility to them,” Smith said. “Freedom isn’t free. While their loved one paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, the families sacrifice daily navigating life with a broken heart. While we can’t bring their hero back, we can offer compassion and support for practical and emotional needs.”
Moving forward, Smith said she hopes to expand Gold Star Families’ reach.
“Going forward, CI Gold Star Families have plans to expand our programs and services on a wider scale,” she said. “This all comes with growing the organization in awareness and funding. One hundred percent of all donations go toward the cause as we have no paid staff or overhead.”