KYLE, CHRISTOPHER SCOTT
KYLE, CHRISTOPHER SCOTT (1974–2013). Christopher "Chris" Scott Kyle, U. S. Navy SEAL and the U.S. military's most lethal sniper, son of Wayne Kenneth Kyle and Deby Lynn (Mercer) Kyle, was born in Odessa, Texas, on April 8, 1974. Kyle grew up in rural North Central Texas. His father worked for Southwestern Bell, but the family also maintained a small cattle ranch that Chris worked with his parents and younger brother Jeff. As a small boy, Chris Kyle had a Daisy BB gun, and when he was eight years old, his father bought a 30-06 rifle for Chris to use on their hunts together. Kyle attended high school in Midlothian, and during his time there he played baseball and football and rode horses. After graduating high school in 1992, Kyle, who had been active in the Future Farmers of America, studied agriculture at Tarleton State University. At the same time, he worked as a professional bronco rider until he suffered severe injuries that resulted in a dislocated shoulder, broken ribs, a bruised kidney and lung, and the insertion of pins in his wrists. Kyle retired from bronc riding but became a ranch hand on a ranch in Hood County while he attended college classes.
Kyle had often stated that his two possible ambitions focused on either ranching or joining the military. In 1996 he found himself at a shopping-mall military recruiting office. He had originally gone to talk to the army, but when they were not there, a navy recruiter informed him about the Navy SEALs. Kyle signed up but was initially rejected due to the pins in his arm. He subsequently quit school and decided to go back to ranching full-time. However, in the winter of 1997–98 he received a call back from the U. S. Navy and was invited to attend Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training in Coronado, California. He officially joined the navy in February 1999. Upon completing the six-month training course, he was eventually assigned to SEAL Team 3 in April 2001.
Shortly after completion of BUD/S, Kyle met Taya Studebaker at a local bar in San Diego, California. She worked in San Diego as a pharmaceutical representative. They married in 2002 before his first deployment. They had two children, a boy and a girl.
Kyle, who had gone through the SEALs extensive sniper training, served four tours during his enlistment and fought in the war known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was deployed for the initial invasion of Baghdad in 2003, to Fallujah in 2004, to Ramadi in 2006, and back to Baghdad in 2008. In the course of his career, he had a record-breaking 160 confirmed kills, although the U. S. Navy has adjusted the number through the years. During his tours, he was also twice shot and survived six improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. His expert marksmanship and courage resulted in a silver star and four bronze stars with valor. Kyle, who achieved the rank of Chief Petty Officer, earned a number of military honors, including Marksmanship Medals for Rifle and Pistol Expert, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Promoted to chief instructor, Kyle wrote the first U.S. Navy handbook for snipers. His work not only attracted the attention of the U.S. military but of his enemies as well. During his tours Kyle acquired the nickname “The Devil of Ramadi” and had a bounty of up to $80,000 placed on him by Iraqi insurgents. In 2009 Kyle retired from the Navy SEALs after four deployments and ten years of service. Saying that his departure was one of the hardest decisions he had to make, he chose to prioritize his family and address marital difficulties back at home.
Kyle came back home but experienced personal challenges in the transition from war to everyday life. The family settled in Midlothian, Texas, and he started his own tactical training and security business called CRAFT International. His autobiography American Sniper (written with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice was published in 2012 and became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. Kyle made a number of television appearances at this time and also worked with the FITCO Cares Foundation to furnish fitness equipment to wounded veterans, their families, and victims of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Kyle and his wife began work to establish their own foundation—the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation—named after a frog skeleton tattoo Kyle had that was the symbol for fallen U.S. Navy SEALs. The foundation was designed to help veterans and first responders come back from the horrors of war and become reconnected with their families.
On February 2, 2013, Kyle and a friend, Chad Littlefield, decided to take Eddie Ray Routh, a retired Marine suffering from PTSD, to Rough Creek Lodge Shooting Range near Glen Rose, Texas, for some therapy shooting. Picking up Routh, they headed to the range, where Routh shot and killed both Kyle and Littlefield. Routh fled the murder scene. Although Eddie Routh pleaded insanity, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2015.
Kyle was a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys, and in his honor, the funeral service, which took place on February 12, 2013, was held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. More than 7,000 people came to pay their respects to a man considered an American hero. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. His second book, American Gun: A History of the U. S. in Ten Firearms, was published posthumously in 2013. On August 28, 2013, Governor Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 162, also known as the Chris Kyle Bill, which required state agencies to recognize military training as credit towards the issuance of occupational licenses. The bill aimed to provide assistance for veterans seeking employment in Texas and acknowledge the value of special operations training achieved by veterans like Chris Kyle. The movie American Sniper, based on Kyle’s autobiography, was released in 2014. Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, the film was very successful at the box office and earned six Academy Award nominations. Governor Gregg Abbott declared February 2, 2015, to be “Chris Kyle Day.” Kyle’s wife Taya carried on her husand’s legacy through the foundation that she and Kyle built together.
Chris Kyle American Sniper (http://www.chriskyleamericansniper.info/), accessed October 6, 2016. “Chris Kyle,” Find A Grave Memorial (https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=104551833), accessed October 31, 2016. Chris Kyle Frog Foundation (https://www.chriskylefrogfoundation.org/), accessed October 7, 2016. Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U. S. History (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2012). Phil Fountain, “Perry signs ‘Chris Kyle Bill,’ allows military experience for Texas state licenses,” Texas Military Department (https://tmd.texas.gov/perry-signs-chris-kyle-bill-allows-military-experience-for-texas-state-licenses), accessed May 26, 2017.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Hector Soto, "KYLE, CHRISTOPHER SCOTT ," accessed February 17, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fkyle.
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