JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Service members and patients from Brooke Army Medical Center got a surprise visit from Academy Award-nominated actor Bradley Cooper Jan. 14.
About 260 service members and staff were invited to preview Cooper's new movie, "American Sniper," which is based on the life of military sniper Chris Kyle. Kyle was a U.S. Navy SEAL who was proclaimed the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history.
As the movie was playing in the auditorium, Cooper was upstairs in the Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center Rehabilitation Gym visiting patients, staff and Warrior Transition Battalion Soldiers, signing several movie posters and T-shirts which he handed out.
As Cooper made his way through the hospital to the auditorium, he received a warm reception from everyone he encountered.
As he entered the auditorium, the crowd erupted with cheers.
A few special guests joined Cooper for the event: Chris Kyle's father, Wayne, and two veterans, Bryan Anderson and Jacob Schick, who were also in the movie.
"I know when Bradley walked in you all were cheering wildly for him, but it's us who needs to be cheering for you'll," said Kyle, a Texas native. "I'm not here for [Bradley Cooper], I came here to see y'all."
Kyle praised the service members saying, "I appreciate what each and every one of you do, each and every day. This country owes you a huge debt … we just want to be here for you."
Audience members asked several questions as Cooper talked about playing the role of a real military hero. Cooper bulked up and spent months learning the intricacies of military weapons to prepare for the role, for which he just received an Oscar nomination.
Making this movie was a life-changing experience," he said. "I was terrified when I started. I didn't know if I could actually get to a place where I would believe that I was Chris [Kyle]."
Kyle served four tours in the Iraq War and was awarded several commendations for acts of heroism. He was tragically shot and killed in February 2013 while working with a veteran at a shooting range in Texas.
A Marine in the audience stood up and tearfully thanked Cooper for such a real portrayal. "I feel like you are one of my brothers," he said. "I think you did really well and I just want to say 'Thank you.'"
Following the question and answer session, Cooper made his way to an inpatient ward to visit an amputee patient and sign more autographs.
"It was actually Wayne Kyle's idea [to come to BAMC]," Cooper said.
"You have done so much for all the vets, it's the least we could do is come here and meet you guys."
Cooper said the visit surpassed his expectations. "Everybody has been so nice."
"Hopefully we can inspire some Soldiers who are wounded and having a rough time," Anderson added.
To see more photos, visit the BAMC Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/BrookeArmyMedicalCenter.