Chris Kyle, former Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer was shot and killed on 02-02-13 at a shooting range in North Texas. Kyle, the military sniper with 160 confirmed kills–the largest number for an American sniper in history, surpassing even the legendary Carlos Hathcock–was shot, along with a friend, Chad Littlefield, by a fellow veteran, Eddie Ray Routh, who has been charged with two counts of capital murder. Fox News has the complete story.
I first learned of Kyle when I read his autobiography, American Sniper, which is worthy of becoming a classic of the military A/B genre.
Authors who publish on the Internet quickly learn that it is difficult indeed to predict which articles will be widely read. Articles lavished with time and attention often provoke little interest, while other, shorter articles, articles that are dashed off in a few minutes, become enormously popular. This was the case with a brief article I wrote about Kyle titled “The Universe Has A Good Laugh.”
That single article has been read more than virtually anything I’ve ever written, and it’s not because of my great skill and insight, but because it tells a compelling story of a good guy–the genuine article, not a movie action hero–prevailing over real bad guys. For once, the good guy won, and in winning, made the world a little better for us all. That was Chris Kyle. People responded to him because he was the genuine article.
Those of us who have had the honor to serve in America’s military understand issues of duty, honor, country and patriotism in a way unimaginable to those who have not served. I do not denigrate those who have not served; I only observe that experience matters. Most non-veterans are patriotic and honorable men and women who love America. But as you’ll see shortly, those who have served have earned a special insight.
All Americans should be thankful that men like Chris Kyle have always answered the call of freedom, and particularly so in a time of political turmoil when many of our national leaders seem to have no appreciation for the sacrifice of those who have won and secured liberty. May such men–and women–always answer the call, and may they be inspired by men like Chris Kyle.
One of the striking things about American Sniper is Kyle’s utter lack of political correctness. He did not wring his hands over killing a brutal and barbaric enemy, an enemy determined to destroy modernity and western civilization. He apologized not. Because he believed in America and in liberty, because he was not mired in cultural equivalence, he was determined to do what was necessary, he did it exceptionally well, and I’ve no doubt many are alive today because of his dedication and skill.
There are many passages in Kyle’s autobiography that speak directly to the kind of man and American he was. This, perhaps, better than most:
You have to understand: no SEAL wants to die. The purpose of war, as Patton put it, is to make the other dumb bastard die. But we also want to fight.
Part of it is personal. It’s the same way for athletes: an athlete wants to be in a big game, wants to compete on the field or in the ring. But another part, a bigger part I think, is patriotism.
It’s the sort of thing that if it has to be explained, you’re not going to understand. But maybe this will help:
One night a little later on, we were in an exhausting firefight. Ten of us spent roughly forty-eight hours in the second story of an old, abandoned brick building, fighting in hundred-degree-plus heat wearing full armor. Bullets flew in, demolishing the walls around us practically nonstop. The only break we took was to reload.
Finally, as the sun came up in the morning, the sound of gunfire and bullets hitting brick stopped. The fight was over. It became eerily quiet.
When the Marines came in to relive us, they found every man in the room either slumped against a wall or collapsed on the floor, dressing wounds or just soaking in the situation.
One of the Marines outside took an American flag and hoisted it over the position. Someone else played the National Anthem—I have no idea where the music came from, but the symbolism and the way it spoke to the soul was overwhelming; it remains one of my most powerful memories.
Every battle-weary man rose, went to the window, and saluted. The words of the music echoed in each of us as we watched the Stars and Stripes wave literally in the dawn’s early light. The reminder of what we were fighting for caused tears as well as blood and sweat to run freely from all of us (84-85).
General George Patton said it well:
It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.
Requiscat in Pacem, Chief Kyle, you’ve earned your reward and the respect and thanks of a grateful nation. And may God comfort your wife and children and all who love you, and let them know the peace that passeth understanding.
Ave atque vale.
Kyle, Chris, Jim DeFelice, and Scott McEwen. American Sniper. New York: HarperCollins, 2012. Print.