In a time when we Americans have so few heroes to look up to and role models to emulate, we learned today that Chris Kyle, ex-Navy SEAL, who served four tours in Iraq and holds the military record for most sniper kills was fatally shot at a Texas gun range. He and another man, Chad Littlefield, were killed by an ex-Marine reportedly suffering from PTSD. It is rather sad and ironic that Kyle, who had spent much of his time trying to help through his private foundation, veterans with physical and psychological injuries from the war, should meet his fate at the hands of one of its victims.
"I wanted to be able to let people know about the sacrifices that not only people in the service make, but what their families go through. I knew this would give me a voice so I could speak about the guys I know who were killed. I wanted to get their story out and I wanted to raise awareness for veterans.
“It is so hard becoming a civilian,” Kyle said. “When you are in the military, everything you do is for the greater good. And as a civilian, everything you do is for your own good.
“When you’re in the military, you are facing life and death every day. And then you come home and hear people who are unhappy about the little things. And you think, are you kidding me? Two weeks ago, I was shot. And this is your problem."
During Kyle's four tours in Iraq (1999-2009), he was shot twice, and lived through six IED attacks that killed many of his buddies. He was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation. Yet, despite holding the US military record for most sniper kills (150), he said in an interview in Texas Monthly:
"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 naive, 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."
Some people may question why one should consider Chris Kyle a hero, especially given the role he played in the theater of war. The US heavily used snipers in Iraq because the collateral damage that would be caused by bombs or drones was considered unacceptable. When you reflect on the stress that Kyle was under on a daily basis, in trying to correctly identify and then neutralize threats to keep his Company safe, through four tours of duty, then it becomes easier to understand how extraordinary individuals like Kyle really are. Chris Kyle is also synonymous of the hundreds of the hundreds of thousands of men and women, along with their families, who sacrificed through the years, so that millions of us "civilians" can pursue our livelihoods in safety and security. Remember the line from A Few Good Men, "because they stand on a wall and say, "nothing's going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch."
For the service members whose lives Chris saved with his rifle skills, and their families, thank you's can probably never be said too many times. But Kyle only considered it his duty, and never thought of himself as a hero. And that's why he was one.
Our sincere condolences to his wife and two children. Our hearts and prayers are with you.
Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.