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Brain Performance Institute Warrior’s Role in American Sniper: More than Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Center for BrainHealth

For one UT Dallas employee, having a role in Clint Eastwood’s blockbuster film American Sniper meant more than fifteen minutes of fame. A Kyle family friend and wounded warrior himself, Jake Schick, knew the film would send strong messages of hope and perseverance to his fellow brothers and sisters-in-arms and offer America a glimmer of the strength and bond many military families, including Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and his family, shared. The film depicts the daunting toll of four deployments to Iraq and being touted the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history took in Chris’s professional and personal life, and emphasized the uniquely challenging and intense journey he and so many other warriors returning home face on a daily basis. “I know the Kyle family well and I wasn’t going to be a part of something that didn’t accurately portray the family’s commitment to this country and to each other,” said Schick, Center for BrainHealth Brain Performance Institute Warrior Relations Specialist. “Knowing Chris’s story could serve as a platform to break down barriers for other warriors who may be struggling reaching out for help, I couldn’t not take the roll when Warner Bros. called.” Jake landed the role of injured Marine “Wynn” after receiving what he thought was a scam Facebook message. “I called Chris’s little brother to make sure this was the real deal and after he gave the green light, it wasn’t long before I was on the phone, making plans. The rest is history.” Medically retired from the United States Marine Corps after being severely wounded in combat, Jake says he “better have nailed the part.” “I’ve been living the life of a severely wounded Marine for more than 10 years. On September 20, 2004, I was on a mission in the Sunni Triangle, driving a Humvee through soft sand when I hit an improvised explosive device. It blew up beneath me blowing me 30 feet in the air. I lost my right leg below the knee and parts of my hand and arm, but not all of my injuries were visible. I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. The physical pain and recovery was intense, but it was nothing compared to the mental pain that followed. Physical pain lets you know you’re alive. Mental pain tests your will to stay that way.” Jake believes seeing one of America’s elite struggle with the transition from military to civilian life may be a conversation starter for other service members and their families. “We’ve been fighting two wars for more than a decade. A warrior’s resolve and mindset is often to not seek help. The stigma associated with PTSD and other invisible injuries has got to go.” Helping other warriors, like Chris did, is how Jake heals. “When you leave the service, your life changes,” said Schick. “The world you knew intimately as a member of the military is left behind and you begin again as a civilian. For those struggling with PTSD and TBI, it’s challenging to say the least. You’re often going through the motions, hour-by-hour. I want warriors to know you can do something. For me, it was coming to the Center for BrainHealth’s Brain Performance Institute after my friend, a former Navy SEAL, urged me to attend their high performance brain training program, because it had helped him so much. And now, I help other warriors on a daily basis as an employee.” The Center for BrainHealth’s Brain Performance Institute offers warriors high performance brain training  at no cost thanks to scholarships provided by private philanthropy. Boosting cognitive performance in areas of attention, reasoning, decision-making, problem-solving and innovation equips warriors with an essential tool kit to become strategic learners, deeper-level thinkers and innovation generators. A partnership with La Quinta Inns & Suites™ has also afforded military spouses and caregivers the opportunity to attend the high performance brain training program, supporting healthier brains in the entire family network of warriors. To date, more than 650 warriors across eight states have participated in the training through the Brain Performance Institute.   “Take that first step,” said Schick. “Talk to a fellow warrior; reach out to a professional. Call the Center for BrainHealth. I’m living proof there is hope.” To read more from Jake, click here.        

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