UT Dallas Employee Helps Bring Plight of Soldiers to Big Screen
Jake Schick Works With Veterans Through the Center for BrainHealth, Appeared in the Film 'American Sniper'

Jake Schick and Clint Eastwood

Brain Performance Institute employee Jake Schick (left) portrayed an injured Iraq War veteran in Clint Eastwood's film "American Sniper." It's a role Schick knows well; he was injured by an improvised explosive device during a mission in 2004.

For UT Dallas employee Jake Schick, his acting role in Clint Eastwood’s blockbuster film American Sniper was about more than a few minutes of fame; it was about helping to bring messages of hope and perseverance to fellow veterans and presenting the strength and sacrifice of military families.

Schick’s role at the University as a training specialist in the Brain Performance Institute’s Warrior Training team also focuses on the plight of soldiers after they return home from service. The center offers high performance brain training that can boost cognitive performance, minimize stress, improve productivity and enhance problem-solving skills.

The Oscar-nominated film focuses on the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, depicting the daunting toll of four deployments to Iraq on him and his family. Kyle was considered to be the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history before returning to Texas, where he was killed at a gun range in 2013 while trying to help a fellow veteran.

As the film has been celebrated, the sorrow of Chris Kyle’s family has been part of the trial of the man convicted this week of killing him and his friend, Chad Littlefield.

“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,” Schick said. “Knowing Chris’ 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 role when Warner Bros. called.”

Schick, a wounded veteran himself, landed the role of injured Marine “Wynn” after receiving what he thought was a scam Facebook message. As a friend of the Kyle family, he called Chris Kyle’s younger brother to make sure the inquiry was real.

Bradley Cooper and Jake Schick

Schick is seen on location with actor Bradley Cooper, who portrayed Chris Kyle in "American Sniper."

“After he gave the green light, it wasn’t long before I was on the phone, making plans,” Schick said. “The rest is history.”

Medically retired from the United States Marine Corps after being severely wounded in combat, Schick said he “better have nailed the part.”

“I’ve been living the life of a severely wounded Marine for more than 10 years. On Sept. 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.”

He said not all of his injuries were visible. He was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He said mental recovery proved more difficult than physical.

“Physical pain lets you know you’re alive. Mental pain tests your will to stay that way,” he said.

Schick said the film’s depiction of one of America’s elite service members struggling with the transition from military to civilian life may inspire important conversations among 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,” Schick said.

As it did for Chris Kyle, helping other soldiers helps Schick in his own healing.

“When you leave the service, your life changes,” he said. “The world you knew intimately as a member of the military is left behind and you begin again as a civilian.

“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 and 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 brain training program is provided to veterans at no cost thanks to scholarships provided by private philanthropy.

A partnership with La Quinta Inns & Suites also has afforded military spouses and caregivers the opportunity to attend the high performance brain training program, supporting healthier brains for the entire military family network.

To date, more than 650 veterans in 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.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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