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4 years ago

The little-known Alabama connection to Clint Eastwood’s upcoming ‘American Sniper’ film

"American Sniper" became a #1 bestseller upon its release in 2013 (Photo credit: Elena Cone)
“American Sniper” became a #1 bestseller upon its release in 2013 (Photo credit: Elena Cone)

Clint Eastwood’s new film “American Sniper” is set to begin production today in Morocco, and it will feature an Alabama connection that few people are aware of.

The movie will focus on the life of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, commonly referred to as “the most lethal sniper in American military history” with 160 confirmed kills and 255 claimed kills. So legendary were his exploits on the battlefields of Iraq that insurgents dubbed him the “Devil of Ramadi.” His longest confirmed kill was from an incredible 2,100 yards — roughly 1.2 miles. He was shot twice and involved in six IED attacks during his four tours in Iraq. For his service and valor he received two Silver Stars, five bronze stars, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and a Marine Corps Commendation.

Upon returning to his home state of Texas, Kyle took an active role in helping fellow veterans — especially those with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — get re-acclimated to life at home. But in February of last year, Kyle and a friend of his named Chad Littlefield were gunned down at a shooting range by 25-year-old Marine veteran Eddie Ray Routh, while they were trying to help smooth his transition back into civilian life.

Before he was tragically killed, Kyle penned an autobiography called “American Sniper” detailing his transition from Texas rodeo cowboy to sniper. The upcoming film of the same name is being directed by Clint Eastwood and will star Bradley Cooper (American Hustle, The Hangover, Limitless) as Chris Kyle and Sienna Miller (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) as his wife, Taya Renae Kyle.

Bradley Cooper (left) will portray Chris Kyle (right) in the upcoming movie adaptation of Kyle's 2013 autobiography "American Sniper."
Bradley Cooper (left) will portray Chris Kyle (right) in the upcoming movie adaptation of Kyle’s 2013 autobiography “American Sniper.”

In addition to the movie stars, at least one real-life Navy SEAL will play a significant role in the film. Kyle’s close personal friend and fellow SEAL Team 3 sniper Kevin “Dauber” Lacz (pronounced “lace”) is serving as one of the movie’s technical advisors. In short, Lacz will be showing the actors how it’s done in real life. On top of that, he’ll have an on-screen role in the film playing himself.

Lacz is Alabama’s connection to what is undoubtedly the year’s most anticipated military-related film. Now retired from the SEALs, Lacz currently works for Birmingham, Ala.-based defense contractor XTreme Concepts.

XTreme focuses primarily on providing venture capital to early stage companies focused on defense initiatives, but they also offer security services and employ a host of former U.S. special forces operatives, including SEALs and Green Berets.

“It’s important to us that we play an integral role in putting veterans to work,” XTreme Concepts CEO Landon Ash told Yellowhammer. “The sacrifices these guys and their families make secure the freedoms the rest of us enjoy. So when they come home, we feel like it’s our responsibility to provide a job for as many of them as possible.”

Ash said “American Sniper” is moving forward quickly, as is usually the case with Eastwood-directed films.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be involved in this project,” said Ash. “Dauber’s already in Morocco where they’re shooting a lot of the film. We know it’s in good hands with Clint Eastwood at the helm.”

Kevin "Dauber" Lacz
Kevin “Dauber” Lacz

Yellowhammer also had an opportunity to speak to with Lacz’s wife, Lindsey, Sunday evening. She detailed the unlikely sequence of events that led to her husband not only becoming the technical assistant on the movie, but also landing an on-camera role.

“Back in early 2012 when Warner Brothers optioned the rights to the film’s script, I was bored and Googled the screen writer and ended up finding him on Facebook. I sent him a message and told him my husband was in the book and basically asked him not to screw it up,” Mrs. Lacz said. “These men are impressive enough as they are, there’s no need to make it something it’s not. I figured I’d never hear back from him, but he actually messaged me back almost immediately and Kevin and I developed a friendship with him. Several months before Chris (Kyle) was killed, Kevin began helping out a lot on the technical stuff for the screen play. After Chris died, they moved Kevin into the advisory role. When he went out to train Bradley Cooper, they ended up asking him to audition to actually be in the movie. That wasn’t at all what we expected.”

Mrs. Lacz also filled us in on more of the back story between her husband and Chris Kyle, and on how Dauber ended up in the SEALs to begin with.

“One of Kevin’s best friend’s father was killed in one of the towers in 9/11. At the time he was going to school at James Madison University, but he decided he wanted to go into the military. He had no idea what job he wanted to do, though. When he went to the recruiter’s office, he saw a SEAL poster on the wall. He always says, ‘When I saw the poster of a frog man coming out of the water I knew that was it. That’s what I wanted to do.’

“He ended up in SEAL Team 3, Charlie Platoon, which is where he linked up with Chris,” she continued. “They deployed together to Ramadi. Mickey Monsoor, who was awarded the Medal of Honor, was over there, too, in their sister platoon. Chris ended up getting moved to Delta platoon, but he wanted to make sure someone he was already close to would be there with him. He tells a great story in his book about how he went into the office and moved Kevin’s name on the board over to Delta platoon with him, so they could be together. He wanted to serve with him.”

Kevin "Dauber" Lacz and Lindsey Lacz in Birmingham, Ala.
Kevin “Dauber” Lacz and Lindsey Lacz in Birmingham, Ala.

Mrs. Lacz said that Dauber got connected to the Alabama-based XTreme Concepts team through the company’s COO, Bradley Stegmeier, who is also a former SEAL. Stegmeier was in a leadership position inside SEAL Team 3 while Dauber was serving.

“We got a call from Brad and part of what they were looking for was someone with some medical experience,” she said. “Prior to becoming a SEAL, Kevin had been a corpsman, part of the Navy’s medical personnel. When he got out of the SEALs, he went to the University of Connecticut and got his bachelors degree in political science, but then decided to go to PA (physician’s assistant) school at Wake Forest. So when Brad was looking for someone with some background in medicine, it was a good fit.”

Mrs. Lacz said Dauber is enjoying the opportunity to be in the movie and tell their story.

“Overall, Kevin just really enjoys being involved with the SEAL community. Being on the SEAL teams is so demanding and requires so much time away from home. So we decided if we were going to have kids, we’d need to go in another direction. But he loves having those experiences with them. This movie is a great opportunity to continue that connection.”

A release date for “American Sniper” is not yet set, but it could be in theaters as early as the fourth quarter of this year.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

11 mins ago

Advice for the Wiregrass: If you want an Interstate highway before the automobile is obsolete, start a full-court press immediately

One of the hot-stove topics making its way around Alabama is the possibility of a new east-west Interstate highway through the center of Alabama.

The proposal is what people are calling “Interstate 14,” which would run parallel with U.S. Highway 80, crossing into Alabama from the east in Phenix City and passing by Tuskegee, Montgomery, Selma, Demopolis and exiting Alabama to the west on the way to Meridian, Miss.

There are already parts of it in place along U.S. Highway 80, near Phenix City and Montgomery. But the idea is that it could supplement Interstate 20 to the north by offering an alternate route that would avoid congestion in Atlanta and Birmingham and connect Columbus, Ga. to the Interstate highway system beyond the existing I-185 spur.

Earlier this month, Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba cried foul over the current proposal, which has the route passing Dothan to the north by 100 miles.

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“We feel like we have been cut out for many decades, it has hurt us, we have grown a great city but we need an interstate this way before those in the middle of the state do,” Saliba said of the I-14 proposal in an interview with Alabama Media Group.

It’s hard to see where an east-west Interstate highway through the Wiregrass would go. If such a route were proposed, it would probably follow U.S. Highway 84. But in 2018, is there any demand for a new route connecting Dothan, Enterprise, Elba, Opp, Andalusia, Evergreen, Monroeville and Grove Hill beyond what is already in place?

Probably not.

That’s why the route the Wiregrass needs is a north-south route.

If anyone has ever made a trip from Alabama to the Florida beaches between Apalachicola and Fort Walton Beach, at any point along the way, perhaps making your way through one of the various one-light speed traps along U.S. Highways 231 or 331, you thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to be on an Interstate highway right now?”

The proposal gaining traction is an Interstate spur connecting Dothan and/or Enterprise to Interstate 10 32 miles to the south in Florida. Interstate 10 is a major east-west thoroughfare that starts in Jacksonville, Fla. and ends in Los Angeles.

“One of the things they’re pitching is that this has already been planned out, the money has already been spent, and that needs to be our strategy with the I-10 connector,” Enterprise City Councilman Turner Townsend said to The Enterprise Ledger’s Leah Lancaster in an interview published on Tuesday. There was a study done and there was a route ticked out. I think we need to (stay with) the I-10 connector, because practically speaking I don’t see them putting an east/west interstate through Enterprise.”

Even if you can get beyond the endless bureaucracy and favoritism politics of the Alabama Department of Transportation and its 50-year backlog of highway projects, the next problem to overcome with such a proposal would be getting cooperation from the Florida Department of Transportation.

If you consider the transportation needs in Florida include the metropolises of Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, etc., elected leaders in southeastern Alabama probably should have started yesterday working with Florida officials in the Panhandle if they want to see an I-10 connector in their lifetimes.

Unfortunately for the bigger cities in the Wiregrass, they’re a victim of geography. To many of our statewide political leaders, places like Dothan, Enterprise, Ozark, Elba, Opp, and Andalusia are so far removed from the Montgomery-Birmingham-Huntsville corridor that they might as well be in Florida.

Even with some very favorable circumstances in the Congress that made funding available, it took nearly 40 years for Corridor X (now Interstate 22) that connects Memphis and Birmingham to be completed.

The takeaway of that is the Mississippi portion was completed decades before the Alabama portion. If that’s a model for what people in the Wiregrass should expect from ALDOT, promote the project early and promote it often if you want such a route completed before the automobile is obsolete.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

West AlabamaWorks! is bridging the gap between workforce And industry

The workforce in West Alabama is changing with the help of West AlabamaWorks! They want to let people in the workforce know that being in healthcare does not strictly mean you are just a doctor or a nurse. There are hundreds of other job opportunities out there in hospitals, doctors offices, and insurance. Peggy Sease is Vice President of Human Resources and shares how her experience has led her to the position to work between the workforce and employers. The same goes for Lori Royer, HR Director, as she tells us what the industry is searching for in future candidates: attendance, diligent in all your duties, and have critical thinking skills. Our state has so many talented people, and Lori and Peggy are shrinking the gap between workforce and the industry with West AlabamaWorks!

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2 hours ago

Decatur High School teacher accused of having sex with students resigns

An Alabama high school teacher who was paid nearly $130,000 while on leave fighting charges that she had sex with students has resigned.

The Decatur city school board accepted the resignation of Carrie Cabri Witt on Monday.

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Superintendent Michael Douglas tells the Decatur Daily that Witt quit the day before the board was scheduled to hold a hearing on her employment.

The 45-year-old Witt is charged with two counts of having sex with a student.

She’s been on paid leave since March 2016 while fighting the accusations.

Witt’s resignation letter says she “vehemently” denies committing any crime or having any inappropriate relationship with a student.

The school district has spent more than $128,000 on salary and benefits on Witt since placing her on leave.

She worked at Decatur High School.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 hours ago

How an incoming freshman overcame inner-city Chicago to get to Alabama State University – ‘This is the start of a new life’

Ivry Hall has a tale to tell – one that is too unbelievable and too tragic to be anything but real. But it is who life’s challenges have made him, and where Hall is going from here, that he wants to be his life’s story.

Chicago born-and-raised, Hall just turned 18 last month.

“I grew up on the South Side. Englewood, 64th and Laflin,”  he told WLS-TV. “My mom did a lot of moving, but that’s where I spent most of my childhood.”

His upbringing, like that of most in this infamous part of the Windy City, was filled with serious trouble.

“Gang banging,” Hall admitted. “I used to smoke when I was little.”

He also dropped out of school, saying that is what was expected of children like him in that urban neighborhood.

Hall said, “I did a lot of stuff. That’s just from the image I was seeing so I wanted to do it, too.”

And that was all before his mom, who was raising him as a single mother, got cancer when Hall was only 12.

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“When my mom passed away, I was so hurt,” he reflected. “And I just wanted to do better.”

This tragedy inspired Hall to go back to school, and after some time, attend Tilden High School.

While in a positive frame of mind again, his life did not necessarily get easier when he went back to get his education. Hall was living with a cousin who moved nearly two hours from where he went to class.

“I had to get on three buses and one train,” Hall explained.

However, through hard work and the right attitude, he always kept going.

“I don’t believe in giving up, and I think that failure is not an option,” said Hall.

Not only did his mom pass away when he was 12, but when he was a senior in high school, Hall’s dad died of lung failure.

“Of course, I lost my mom. I lost my dad,” he told WLS-TV in Chicago. “I wish they were still here to see what I’ve accomplished now, but they’re not. Everything is not going to come as you want it.”

Hall’s faith in Jesus Christ, sports and a local boxing gym got him through the hard times. He also had mentors at his church who never stopped encouraging him.

Hall said, “They are like, ‘Ivry, you’re going to be something. You’re so smart.’ And that stuff encouraged me to do good.”

“No pity party,” explained Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church, where Hall attends. “No ‘poor me.’ He was just a young brother who wanted the best for himself and others.”

Hall set a goal for himself when his mother died, and he never took his eye off achieving it.

“I always wish that I could graduate valedictorian, and look, I did,” he recounted. “I was beyond happy.”

Now, Hall is beginning his freshman year at Alabama State University in Montgomery, a triumph made possible in part by a $10,000 scholarship from his church.

The teen from the South Side of Chicago is just getting started on writing his life’s story, but he has a good plan for what comes next.

“Major in business, so I can open up my own business,” Hall forecasted.

He added, “I’m not for sure what I want to open up, but I want to help people.”

Hall now has his sights set on a new goal, and he is determined to succeed.

“I’m going to go to college and graduate, so I’m going to find a way to study,” Hall said. “I’m going to find a way to do everything without giving up.”

“If I give up, I will be just like everybody that I know,” he continued.

The young man also shared his key to overcoming the challenges life has thrown at him again and again.

“You have to give 100 percent in everything you do,” Hall emphasized. “Once you give up, you’ll only be used to giving up. At least try. If you can’t do it, continue to try.”

He has been through a lot in his short time on earth, but to him, a blank canvas awaits.

“This is the start of a new life,” Hall concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Former Prattville police officer gets 10 years for fraud, theft

A former police officer in Alabama who pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and burglary has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports 51-year-old Leon Todd Townson was sentenced Monday.

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The former U.S. Marine is one of two former Prattville Police Department lieutenants charged with breaking into a home in 2015.

The other lieutenant, 48-year-old John Wayne McDaniel, is set to be sentenced Friday.

Townson also was charged in 2017 with defrauding an insurance agency by filing a claim containing false information.

The fraudulent claim prompted the agency to award Townson more than $190,000.

He resigned from the police department in 2005 before pleading guilty to trying to sell a modified rifle seized by the department’s drug unit.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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