Navy SEAL Sniper laid To Rest: Dark Times & The Light Of Texas
Debbie Remembers Chris Kyle: American Sniper
Chris Kyle April 8, 1974 - Feb 2, 2013
Chris Kyle, "The Legend" as his teammates nicknamed him, was tragically taken from us on Feb 2, 2013. Chris was the author of American Sniper and was the most lethal sniper in US Military History. As a Navy SEAL Chris was awarded numerous medals including two Silver Stars, and five Bronze Stars with Valor. I was blessed to not only know the warrior Chris was but to experience the complete package of a man balanced with selfless love, compassion and generosity.
Chris is survived by his wife and two children who he deeply loved and cherished.
Along with Chris at the Texas shooting range on February 2, 2013, close friend Chad Littlefield was also murdered and leaves behind a wife and a daughter.
Chris and I began to communicate after the death of my son Marc Alan Lee. I would receive emails and phone calls while Chris was still deployed. I realized that these men who served with Marc were his "brothers" and I adopted/inherited many new "sons." Chris took that role seriously and we became very close, we really were family. So when I received the call that Chris had been killed I was devastated and in shock. I caught the next flight to Texas to be with his family. I have dedicated my life since Marc's death to the troops and especially the families of the fallen. I have been there for too many families who have lost a loved one in combat or related to combat, but this was different. Chris was as close to a son as you could be without birthing them or raising them. Grief was all too familiar and I did not like this.
Within hours we began to see an amazing out pouring from the patriots in Texas who were deeply moved and had been impacted by Chris. It is still so hard to accept that Chris is no longer with us. I was so blessed to have known Chris and be embraced by him as his "Momma Lee."
We had about 12,000 to 15,000 attend the services at Cowboy Stadium. The following day the funeral procession traveled 200 miles to bury Chris in Austin at Texas Memorial Cemetery.
We gathered at the Stadium at Midlothian High and were greeted by the Patriot Guard Riders. These riders are life savers, if it wouldn't have been for them at Marc's Memorial Service I would have been arrested for the confrontation that might have ensued when the Westboro wacko's told me "I had failed my son and I sent him to hell" and that "He choose an occupation of murder." Because they attended and sheltered me I didn't see or hear the vile protestor's. They ride for every fallen hero to honor and defend them. One of Marc and Chris' Officers and I got off the bus in the pouring rain to present Challenge Coins to their President and shake the hands of each of those who rode. The funeral processions were led by about 80 riders and then were joined in Waco by about 800 more.
As we left Midlothian people were gathered on the overpasses to honor Chris and show their support. I was amazed as we continued to drive 5 miles away, and yet still people were standing on every single overpass, 25 miles and still every single overpass had people waving flags, saluting, some with signs "RIP Chris Kyle," "Thanks you Chris, you will not be forgotten." This was done in the pouring rain and many of them where there hours before when our advanced team and color guard drove by. Even though I was exhausted and had slept very little the past week, I knew I had to stay awake to see how many miles we would travel before there was an empty overpass. 150 miles.....still every overpass. Many had fire trucks and emergency vehicles, and it wasn't just the overpass, the sides of the freeway had people standing on the shoulder in front of their business, school children stood with hands over their hearts, some people knelt as we went by, many had tears streaming down their cheeks.
As we passed through many of the major cities people were on all three levels of freeways as they laced over the interstate. I remember my heart sinking a little in disappointment as we neared an overpass and no one was there, then as we got closer I saw it was under construction and you couldn't get up there. We traveled 200 miles and EVERY overpass had people paying their respects and honoring Chris. I had never seen anything like this in my life.
Chris hated the spotlight, he was uncomfortable doing book signings, taking pictures, and visiting with people. That wasn't why he wrote American Sniper, he wrote it to honor Marc, Ryan and his teammates. He wanted to give the average American a glimpse into what our troops and their families endure and sacrifice. He gave away all of the proceeds to the book. He wrote the book to challenge people that when they come home our responsibility is "to serve those who served us."
After Chris and I had been at book signings or in a group of people where he couldn't walk five feet without someone stopping him for a hand shake or autograph, he would say "I hate this part, I am not a people person". Yet if you stopped him even if there was a line a mile long behind you, he would have made you feel that you were the only one and it was sincere. As we drove that 200 miles and I saw all of those people I couldn't help but think, yes son, you are a people person. People all over the world love you.
Chris is buried at an amazing, historic cemetery, and the private burial ceremony attended by family, close friends and teammates will forever be etched in my heart. The cemetery was surrounded three deep on the outside perimeter by the PGR riders and their flags along with who knows how many other patriots.
I stood directly across from the SEALS in formation. My oldest son was on my right and Medal of Honor recipient Mike Thornton on my left, and Chris' casket between the SEALS and I. In front of the casket set Chris family. It was all I could do to not break down when the folded flag was given to Taya, and Chris Mother.
Following SEAL tradition, at the end of Chris' funeral each SEAL removed his Trident and solemnly walked to the casket, and then placed his Trident on Chris' casket and with one slam of the fist pounded it in to the casket. It left me speechless and in tears, as it has each time I have witnessed these brave warriors saying goodbye to one their brothers. Each SEAL then returned to formation and bagpipers played "Amazing Grace." The SEALs all then gathered around the casket and knelt. If they could reach the casket they place their hand on it, if not they placed their hand on the shoulder of the SEAL in front of them and bowed their heads.
When the bagpipers stopped in deep voices of the Brotherhood, they yelled "HOOYAH, CHRIS KYLE!"