The late Navy SEAL sniper, Christopher Scott Kyle was born April 8, 1974, in Odessa, Texas. The son of a church deacon, Kyle grew up on a ranch and experienced a childhood that was shaped by outdoor pursuits. He loved to hunt deer and pheasant and later competed in a number of bronco busting contests.
For two years he studied agriculture at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, before leaving for a job as a ranch hand. His lifelong interest in the military eventually led him to the Navy in 1999, where he quickly gained admittance to the SEALS, the force’s elite special operations unit.
After weathering a demanding selection process, Kyle was selected for and trained as a sniper. Over the course of his 10-year military career, Kyle served four combat deployments to Iraq.
His marksmanship became renowned not just within the American military, for whom he was charged with protecting, but among insurgents as well, who nicknamed him “The Devil of Ramadi.” His enemies had also put a $20,000 bounty on the head of any U.S. sniper. Kyle’s steel nerves and patience for tracking his subjects earned him two awards of the Silver Star and five awards for the Bronze Star.
In all, Kyle claimed to have killed more than 160 people, a record for a U.S. military sniper though the number could not be officially substantiated. “After the first kill, the others come easy,” he later wrote in his bestselling 2012 book, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. “I don’t have to psyche myself up, or do something special mentally – I look through the scope, get my target in the cross hairs, and kill my enemy before he kills one of my people.”
Kyle left the military in 2009. In his post Navy life, Kyle followed a number of different pursuits, many of them no doubt aided by the fame his book brought him. With his hulking presence and quiet demeanor, Kyle encapsulated the image of a military hero and as sales of his books soared, he appeared on talk shows and participated in the NBC competition show, Stars Earn Stripes.
In addition, Kyle co-launched a non-profit group, FITCO Cares Foundation, which supplies fitness equipment to war wounded veterans. Kyle’s childhood passion for guns remained with him. He founded Craft International, a security company that is marketed with the motto, “Despite what your momma told you, violence does solve problems.” Kyle was also an outspoken opponent of President Obama’s push to tighten gun controls.
Kyle’s life came to a tragic end on February 2, 2013, when he and a colleague, Chad Littlefield, were shot at a gun range outside of Forth Worth, Texas, by Eddie Ray Routh, an ex-Marine who had a long history of mental illness. Chris Kyle was 38 years old.
Kyle’s murder drew an outpouring of support, especially in his home state of Texas, where an estimated 7,000 people attended a public service for the late SEAL at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. In addition to his wife, Taya, Kyle’s survivors include his two young children.
In October 2014, prosecutors announced they would not seek the death penalty against Routh. Routh’s trial lasted two weeks and deliberations less than two and half hours. On February 24, 2015, the jury found Routh guilty of murder and the judge sentenced the veteran to life in prison without parole minutes after the verdict was rendered.
In 2014, Kyle’s book American Sniper was released as a major Hollywood film, starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle and directed by Clint Eastwood. Lauded by some critics and fans while generating massive controversy over its depiction of violence and take on the Iraq War, the commercial blockbuster received six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
We honor you, Chris Kyle.