Inscribed on the pages of American history are the names and deeds of a multitude of heroes on whose shoulders comfortably rest the title of “legendary”. Alvin York of World War I is definitely one of these individuals, along with Audie Murphy of World War II. Neither of these individuals was a high-ranking officer, but each was willing to serve his country on the front lines, risking his life without entertaining mental restraint. Their efforts were responsible for saving a large number of their fellow soldiers. Add to that, these individuals were also humble Christians who inspired all who knew them. During the Iraqi War, a new star was added to this shinning constellation.
Christopher Scott “Chris” Kyle was born on April 8, 1974 in Odessa, Texas. His father, who served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher at the family’s church, gifted his young son with both a rifle and shotgun, then trained him to use them to hunt deer, quail and pheasant.
An active bronco rodeo rider after high school graduation, his riding career ended when he severely injured his arm. Once his arm healed, Kyle visited the office of a US Marine Corps recruiter. Though the Marines turned him down due to the pins in his arm, a Navy recruiter had different ideas and told him about the possibility of becoming a SEAL. Before long, Kyle received a call offering him the opportunity to go to BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL school). In 1999, he became enlisted in the US Navy.
Upon completion of BUD/S training, Kyle was assigned to SEAL Team 3 as a sniper. He served four tours of duty with the Naval Special Warfare Command. The first sniper shot he fired long-range took place during the initial invasion of the Iraq War. His target was a woman headed for a group of Marines armed with a hand grenade. Kyle dropped the woman before she came too close to the Marines, then stated, “the woman was already dead. I was just making sure she didn’t take any Marines with her.”
While deployed in Ramadi, he received the nickname of ‘Al-Shaitan Ramad’ (the Devil of Rahmadi) by the insurgents. In addition to the branding, he became aware of a $20,000 bounty on his head. His Navy SEAL companions, however, gave him a different name – ‘the Legend’.
Outside Sadr City in 2008, Chris Kyle made his most legendary shot. 2,100 yards (1.2 miles) from his position, Kyle spotted an insurgent armed with a rocket launcher, positioned close to a US Army convoy. Taking aim with his .338 Laupa Magnum rifle, Kyle pulled the trigger and moments later the man fell dead when the bullet hit its target. Kyle’s response to his success was, “God blew that bullet and hit him.”
On a number of occasions, Kyle was also on the receiving end of problems. During the four tours he served in Iraq, Kyle was shot on two occasions and experienced IED explosions on six different occasions.
Kyle’s military career ended with a total of 255 kills - 160 confirmed officially by the Pentagon. A retired SEAL, Chris Kyle became known as the “deadliest marksman in US military history.” He earned three Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor. On a number of occasions, SEAL Team Three’s Charlie Company decorate their vehicles, weapons and body armor with the white skull of The Punisher, a gun-wielding comic book vigilante.
Though Kyle was responsible for killing a large number of people, he carried a soft spot as well. He considered the enemy to be a ‘savage’ and stated, “It was my duty to shoot the enemy, and I don’t regret it. My regrets are for the people I couldn’t save: Marines, soldiers, buddies. I’m not naïve, and I don’t romanticize war. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. But I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job.”
After leaving the military, Kyle began his own military contracting firm – Craft International. His company provides sniper training for law enforcement, military and private security.
Though Kyle’s record during his military career was incredible, it falls short of the deadliest marksman in the world. That title is held by a Finnish soldier from World War II, Simo Häyhä, a/k/a - the 'White Death,' - who was responsible for killing 542 Soviet soldiers.
On Saturday, February 2, 2013, Kyle was shot and killed, along with his friend Chad Littlefield. At the time, they were in Erath County, Texas at the Rough Creek Ranch-Lodge-Resort. Marine veteran Eddie Ray Routh, shot the pair after accompanying them to the shooting range. Kyle and Littlefield had invited Routh to come with them in an effort to help him overcome his PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Shortly after the shooting, Routh left the scene in Kyle’s Ford F-350 truck and crashed into a police cruiser. He was later arrested in Lancaster, Texas with a $3 million bond. His trial was originally scheduled for May 5, 2014.
The life of Chris Kyle was remembered during a memorial service held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with many referring to him as a guardian angel. The following day, he was laid to rest in Austin at Texas State Cemetery. The funeral procession stretched for 200+ miles with multitudes of individuals lining Interstate 35 seeking to pay their final respects to Kyle.
In 2012, Kyle’s autobiography, American Sniper, was published by Harper Collins. Currently an film based on the book is in production with Bradley Cooper tapped to play the role of Kyle.
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“Todd and I first met Chris in Pella, Iowa, when he helped out with security for the premiere of the film The Undefeated. And later we became friends with Chris when he was on Stars Earn Stripes with Todd. Chris was a wonderful man, a good friend, and a true American hero who loved our country and served honorably. He was loved and admired by so many, and he will never be forgotten.” - Sarah Palin