Thousands pay tribute to Kyle

IMG_0842By Kathryn Jones


ARLINGTON — In a stadium that bears the names of football heroes like Tony Dorsett and legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry, thousands came from all over Texas and beyond Monday to pay their last respects to a man they considered a hero and a legend not on the football field, but on the battlefield and on the home front.

Chris Kyle, a retired Navy SEAL and author of American Sniper who is believed to be the most lethal military sniper in U.S. history, was lauded in a memorial service at Cowboys Stadium as a father and husband first and a leader who looked out for his brothers in arms to the end.

Kyle, 38, was killed Feb. 2 on the gun range at Rough Creek Lodge along with his friend Chad Littlefield. Another veteran, Eddie Ray Routh, 25, has been charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths.

A Dallas Cowboys Stadium spokesman estimated the crowd at 6,500 to 7,000. The service lasted almost two hours and included an appearance by country-Western singer Randy Travis, who took the stage with his guitar to play “Whisper Your Name” and “Amazing Grace.”

The somber crowd included fellow Navy SEALS, people Kyle had helped through the foundations he supported and those who had never met him but were moved to pay their respects. His flag-draped coffin was brought in by white-gloved pallbearers wearing dark Navy uniforms.

A slide show of Kyle’s life was broadcast on the stadium’s giant screen showing him with his wife and children, hunting, skiing, with his fellow soldiers in Iraq and lying on his stomach in the Iraqi desert and looking through his rifle scope.

Among those speaking were two men Kyle grew up with in Midlothian,

“At home he wasn’t some superhero, he was just dad,” his friend, who did not identify himself, said.

A fellow Navy SEAL who also didn’t give his name said that Kyle was “a man, he was a myth and he was a legend.”

He performed “countless acts of heroism and bravery,” the Navy SEAL said, and won multiple Bronze Stars and Silver Stars for valor.

The myth is that military snipers are “orderly and detailed,” the Navy SEAL said. Kyle was neither, he added, noting that it took days to clean his living quarters after Kyle left his post because there were six months of discarded sunflower seed shells all around his bed.

Kyle should win the medal for the Navy SEAL most dedicated to video games, he added. Kyle loved to play John Madden’s NFL Football game.

Nor was he a “rigid disciplinarian.” Kyle would cut the sleeves off his shirts, wore civilian shoes instead of combat boots and instead of a helmet preferred to wear a faded University of Texas ball cap “just to make sure the enemy knew Texas was represented and that Texans shoot straight.”

As word spread about Kyle’s marksmanship through the ranks, some of his fellow SEALS sarcastically began calling him “The Legend.”

“But what made Chris a legend was his heart,” the Navy SEAL said. “He would do anything for his brothers in arms and he was crushed when they were lost.”

Several times Kyle was asked to speak at a memorial service for a fallen comrade and he couldn’t do it because he was crying so hard, the Navy SEAL recalled.

Kyle’s friend and business partner, Bo French, also recalled that it was sometimes difficult to get Kyle to spend time at a desk in an office in downtown Dallas, where Craft International’s headquarters was located. During business meetings Kyle would be working ¬†away on his iPad, but he most likely was playing a video game while was taking in what was being said, French said.

Craft International began as a company that provided training for those in “harm’s way — every life saved,” French said. Then it expanded into trying to help veterans. Arrest affidavits indicated that Kyle was trying to help a troubled veteran when the young man was accused of turning on Kyle and Littlefield and shooting them both at point-blank range, then fleeing in Kyle’s pickup. He later was arrested and is being held in the Erath County jail on a $3 million bond.

Kyle’s parents wrote a letter read at the service that they remembered their son as a fun-loving prankster and a dedicated protector.

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway,” they wrote in the letter. “Your life was the true meaning of success.”

The most emotional part of the service came when Kyle’s wife, Taya, took the stage to recall her husband and father of their children. She broke down at times and was offered a white Navy officer’s glove to dry her tears.

Taya Kyle said that Littlefield became a close friend of her husband’s at a time when he needed one after he had retired from the Navy to spend more time with his family. Littlefield got Kyle working out again and often would drop by just to hang out, she recalled.

The two “started with a clean slate,” she said. “He met Chris as just another father on the ball field” where Kyle’s son, Bubba, played baseball — not as a celebrity soldier.

Taya Kyle addressed her children and told them how much their father loved them. Then she thanked her husband for helping her become “the woman I was supposed to be.” She said Kyle taught her to believe in “innocent, reckless love,” to be “more independent than I ever wanted to be,” to raise children with softness and old-fashioned values and to forgive.

The crowd gave her a standing ovation.

Kyle’s remains will be driven to Austin on Tuesday for burial at the Texas State Cemetery. The procession along Interstate 35 is expected to be greeted by people waving flags and coming out to pay tribute to Kyle’s military and public service.



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