Military Life

American Heroes: Navy SEAL Chris Kyle

On this day two years ago, the headlines splashed across every form of media that exists; the very words may as well have been painted in blood, such was the pain they instilled in a ripple-effect across our nation. Chris Kyle, former Navy SEAL, famed sniper, loving father, devoted husband, and all-around national hero in many circles, had been killed. Not only had he been killed, but his life had been taken by one of the men suffering from PTSD he’d been fighting so hard to help; he’d been shot in the head, shot in the back, his life coldly snatched away in a moment that remains shrouded in shadow to this day. We are not here today to ask questions or cover any of the issues that have cropped up since Kyle’s death, no, we are here to take a look at this larger-than-life hero, this Legend, this American Hero, and thank him – despite his absence from this plane – for his many sacrifices.

Chris Kyle was born on April 18, 1974, in Odessa, Texas; his mother was Deby Lynn, his father, a church deacon and Sunday school teacher, was Wayne Kenneth Kyle. It was Kyle’s father who first opened the door to a love of rifles, buying Kyle his first gun, a rifle chambered in .30-06 Springfield, at the age of 8. One can’t help but wonder how an 8-year-old handled the felt recoil of a .30-06, after all they’re known for riding the upper limits of recoil energy the average adult shooter can handle at 20.1 foot-pounds of force with a 165 grain round. But this wasn’t just any 8-year-old, either, this was a young Chris Kyle we’re talking about, and no doubt he took to the powerful bolt-action rifle in a rather prescient way considering the caliber was the most commonly used round in the military for 50 years after its creation in 1906. The next gun his father gave him was a shotgun, and Kyle spent his childhood with his father hunting pheasants, quail, and deer. That he was apparently a natural with long guns from an early age makes perfect sense.

In high school he played both baseball and football before becoming a professional bronco rider, something he began mastering while still in school. Kyle would later say learning to ride was probably the most important lesson in patience he ever got, made all the more valuable because he was not, he said, a patient person by nature. After graduating from high school in 1992 he attended Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, with an eye to becoming a ranch manager. Yes, he’d already begun considering the military, but he was enjoying bronc busting and college life, so he decided to put that on hold for the time being.

It was close to the end of Kyle’s freshman year that his career as a rodeo rider came to an abrupt end. He was competing at a rodeo in Rendon, Texas, when the bronco he was set to ride literally flipped over in the chute, pinning him with its enormous weight. His memory of the event would make your own bones ache; suffice to say he came out of it with a shattered wrist, dislocated shoulder, broken ribs, bruised kidney, and even a bruised lung. Unable to compete in rodeos anymore, he got a job working on a ranch in Hood County, Texas, for a man by the name of David Landrum.

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One day at the mall, he started at the Marines recruitment office, but they were out to lunch. When he walked away, the Army recruiter stopped him. Kyle immediately told him he was interested in SF and was just as immediately disappointed to hear he’d have to be an E5 for that, which led to a discussion about the Rangers. While he thought the Rangers sounded cool, he wasn’t sure. He walked away, and that was when the Navy recruiter got him.

We all know Chris Kyle ended up becoming a SEAL, but what many don’t realize is that he was turned down entirely at first. During the physical, the bronc busting damage to his wrist was discovered, and the Navy gave him a flat no. Kyle even tried offering to sign a waiver releasing the Navy of any and all liability regarding his arm, but to no avail; no meant no. His military career appeared to be over before it even started, so he went back to the ranch.

Fast-forward to the winter of 1997-1998. He’d gotten a job on a ranch in Colorado, and discovered Colorado winters were a whole heck of a lot colder than he was used to. Less than thrilled with the bone-chilling cold, Kyle called Landrum asking if help was needed in Texas; Landrum responded in the affirmative, so Kyle began packing. Before he could finish making all the necessary arrangements to return to Texas, fate made an appearance and changed his life forever in the form of a call from the Navy. They’d changed their mind, they said; they wanted him, bum arm and all. Serving was in his blood, going back generations, and Kyle jumped on the opportunity to work his way towards a shot at becoming a Navy SEAL at long last. And thanks to his sheer grit and determination, he was going to get exactly that.

He joined the Navy in 1999, and he made his way into BUD/S. Kyle started with Class 231, but he was rolled back after developing a serious ear infection. During an exercise in a dive tower, he was practicing a buoyant ascent, which meant keeping his ears equalized. With a raging infection it was impossible; Kyle came up with blood running from his ears, eyes, and nose. The copious amounts of blood coming from every hole in his head convinced the instructors he needed immediate medical treatment – and a rollback, forcing him to graduate with Class 233.

There are many stories about Chris Kyle that could be told to give you a deeper look into who he was. Yes, he was the sniper with a record 160 confirmed kills out of an apparent 255 actual kills, according to Kyle’s count, and he was the takes-no-shit shooter the enemy labeled the Devil of Ramadi. He was a brutal fighter, a ruthless SEAL, and a man with absolutely no sympathy for the terrorists he took down with dead-on head shots – but, in my personal estimation, why should he have sympathy for a group of extremists whose idea of right is beheading innocent people with rusty buck knives? And, yes, he had an ego; so what? A healthy ego is an important and necessary part of functioning and surviving in his profession as a SEAL, and, if I might add, wouldn’t you have an ego yourself if you’d become the man to dole out a long list of successful ass-kickings to a blood-thirsty, vicious enemy? But though he was all those things, he was more. He had a heart, compassion, and spirit; he was loyal to a fault, a trait clear in the mode of his shocking death. He was exactly the sort of man this nation needed – needs – defending her shores.

The Heart of a Lion

In 2004, during the second Battle of Fallujah, Chris Kyle was down in the streets helping the Marines slowly clear the city of insurgents. Remember, Kyle was a sniper, so his very job description meant he spent a large portion of the war in sniper’s nests overlooking the streets; he did not have to be down in the streets, he wanted to be. He’d been watching young Marines, whom he described as really nothing more than kids of 18 and 19, being blown apart and riddled with bullets due in part to lack of experience, and he felt he could do more good on the ground with them. In what little spare time he had he took the time to put the young Marines through various drills, teaching them how to clear houses more safely and to operate more efficiently in Fallujah. Not only was he not ordered to do these things but he knew he could get in serious trouble if his CO found out, but he was determined to do whatever needed to be done, so he put his boots on the streets of Fallujah and began clearing houses and scouring alleyways with the Marines.

One day Kyle was working through clearing a block when the susurrus of gunfire exploded on a street not far away. Responding as a true operator – meaning in a way many imagine, but could never actually do – he directed the Marines he’d been patrolling with to stay put while he went to see if he could help whoever was coming under attack. He quickly came upon another group of Marines who had entered an alley only to find themselves faced with heavy enemy fire; the men had pulled back and were behind cover when Kyle arrived on the scene – or, at least most of them were. One was not.

Still out in the open, several yards away from the spot where his fellow Marines were then positioned, a young Marine was lying on his back, in obvious agony. Blood spilled from him as he cried out; this is a memory deeply emblazoned in Chris Kyle’s mind. Not of taking a life, but of an attempt to save one.

Laying down fire as he made a run for the fallen Marine, Chris Kyle took his own life in his hands with the hope of saving the younger man. As soon as he reached the Marine, Kyle could see he was in incredibly bad shape, having been gut-shot. Without hesitating, Kyle hooked his arms under the wounded man’s arms and began dragging him backwards, away from the enemy. As he rushed backwards, weighed down by the other man, he lost his footing and slipped, landing on his back with the Marine on top of him. Later, when he recounted the story, he remembers being so exhausted he simply lay there for a moment as bullets whistled past.

He knew the Marine, whom he said could only have been 18 years old, was about to die. The boy was muttering to Kyle as they lay in the streets of Fallujah, enemy fire all round them; Kyle clearly remembered his words: “Please don’t tell my momma I died in pain.”

Kyle agreed, telling the boy not to worry, and, just like that, the boy was gone.

Another group of Marines arrived and lifted the dead Marine off Kyle’s prone body. The men called in a bomb strike, and the resulting hail of destruction from above took out the enemy’s position, hopefully annihilating those responsible for the death of the young Marine.

Chris Kyle remembered those moments distinctly, and he remembered something else, too. The moment the air strike was over and the threat had been neutralized, he got back up, returned to the block he’d been on with the other Marines, and went back to the fight. Because that’s the way it was. The way it is. You can be surrounded by the worst kinds of human pain, agony, death, and despair, but this is war, and you get up, dust yourself off, and fight. And next time you’re knocked back down, holding a dying man in your arms, and a piece of you inside dies with him, you have to get back up, and fight yet again.

Some people cannot understand, they’re entirely incapable of comprehending how the two sides can live in one body: compassion and stone-cold fighting. But they do exist, they simply exist in the heart of a lion.

Vengeance Is Mine

At one point during one of Kyle’s tours his team suffered back-to-back losses. When the first man went down right before his eyes, he was sure his teammate was dying. An insurgent’s bullet had ricocheted off his rifle and into his face; blood was everywhere, and the SEAL’s body was shaking. Almost immediately another teammate appeared to lay down cover fire, and Kyle hoisted the wounded man up onto his shoulder, and he ran.

When they’d reached the halfway point, the man Kyle was carrying began to moan as blood rushed into his throat, choking him. Even though he didn’t want to pause, Kyle was forced to stop and set his teammate down. Much to his surprise the other man spat out blood and began to breathe on his own, and when Kyle moved to pick him back up, he refused, insisting on walking out under his own power. The soldiers they’d been working with had driven a personnel carrier around to transport him out of the city, and Kyle had no choice but to stand there and watch the soldiers drive off with his critically wounded teammate. The day was not over.

Before much time had passed, the same teammate who had arrived on the scene of the first man’s shooting to provide cover fire while Kyle carried the wounded man to help showed up to let Kyle know they’d gotten intel regarding the location of the insurgents who’d done the shooting. There was some debate regarding whether or not to go on the mission, but in the end they all wanted payback, so they went.

The SEALs stormed the house where intel had directed them, with that same teammate who’d gone and gotten Kyle for the mission running point. Kyle was behind him. As they entered, his teammate clearly saw something amiss, and as he began to open his mouth to warn his fellow SEALs, an insurgent’s bullet ripped right through his mouth and out the back of his head. He dropped right there.

In the moments that followed the SEALs took out the insurgent who’d shot their brother then did what they could for the fallen man even though they were all sure he was beyond help. Then they called for help in the form of an Army tank captain, who immediately agreed to get them out. The captain rolled in with two tanks and four Bradleys, and on the entire drive in they were being heavily engaged by the enemy. In response, the soldiers went Winchester, utterly decimating the area around them. Kyle remembers riding away in the back of a Bradley and seeing nothing but black smoke and destruction. The insurgents had laid a trap for the SEALs, taking out not one but two of their men in a matter of hours, and the American response involved serious payback.

In the end, the first man who was shot that day passed away while the second, who had been shot straight through his head, lived. When Kyle later called his wife, Taya, he broke down and cried.

There is no place for pity for the ruthless insurgents who murdered and continue to murder those they see as infidels – meaning Americans and Christians, among others. Chris Kyle was loyal to his teammates and would do anything for them, including sacrifice himself. He may have doled out vengeance, but it was a righteous vengeance, and those he fought against were of an evil so vile it cannot be described without dirtying this page.

Is This the End

When Chris Kyle was killed on February 2, 2013, we lost an American Hero who cannot be matched. We lost a Legend whose story was not yet complete; a man who was working to help his fellow service members. There is a great deal that could be said, so many stories we could discuss, highs, lows, and everything in between. But we are not here to tell tales, we are here to remember the man behind the legend. We are here to remember Chris Kyle. For his service and sacrifice, we are grateful; for his hand of vengeance in battle, we owe him our thanks for defending our nation.

When you remember Chris Kyle, it would serve you well to remember the man himself, not a portrayal by a Hollywood actor or lies from bitter sources. Remember him as The Legend; remember his heart of a lion. But above all, remember.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

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