Today, along with 7,000 other people, I attended CPO Chris Kyle’s memorial service at Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, TX. Chief Petty Officer and Navy Seal Team 3 member Chris Kyle served in the Navy from 1999 – 2009 and has the most confirmed sniper kills in U.S. history. His team members referred to him as “The Legend”, but insurgents referred to him as “The Devil of Ramadi” with an initial bounty on his head of $20,000 that later grew to $80,000. During his four tours of OIF, he was shot twice and hit by six IED’s. In January of 2012 he released American Sniper: The autobiography of the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, adding best selling author to his resume. Chris Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, were allegedly killed on February 2, 2013 by Eddie Ray Routh, a 25 year old USMC veteran suffering from PTSD, at Rough Creek Lodge shooting range in Erath County, TX.
As I approached Cowboy Stadium, I was immediately touched by the number of cars in the parking lot and the rows upon rows of motorcycles dawning an array of patriotic flags. Uniformed personnel were invited to enter through a private entrance and we were escorted onto the field to sit behind the family and friends while the civilians sat in the stadium seating behind us. From the moment I approached the stadium on foot, there was an overwhelmingly solemn vibe which only grew stronger as I entered. While walking through the lower level tunnel enroute to our seats, all uniformed personnel were offered free snacks, bottled water and/or soda and I was thanked for my service by every employee I saw. I arrived 30 minutes or so prior to the service and they had a slideshow of photos playing on the jumbo tron. Everything from pictures of him as a baby to pictures of him on mission. All of the faces of his team members were blurred out to protect their identity. While obviously I knew I was attending his public memorial service, I was not aware that his casket nor his family would be present. I assumed it would be a chance for the public to pay their respects, but that the family would have a private memorial service of their own. I was wrong. We all stood at attention as the bagpipers and drummers marched and played down the center aisle towards the stage. Much to my surprise, his casket followed. It was an Honor to be able to salute Chris Kyle’s casket. It was placed in the center of the star on the 50 yard line draped in an American Flag with his wife and two small children sitting across from it. As I looked around, I noticed the Patriot Guard standing on the field lining the walls of the stadium behind us. All carrying huge American Flags and all saluting. Behind them, in the stands, were three tiers full of people. Seal Team members, friends and loved ones spoke about him – including his wife Taya. I don’t know what it’s like to be a wife or a mother, but I can’t imagine where she pulled the strength from to hold it together and speak the way that she did. Joe Nichols, Randy Travis and Scott Brown (of the Scooter Brown band) all sang. It was a beautiful ceremony.
A few things really stood out to me today. For one, it made me extremely proud to have earned the right to wear my uniform and it made me want to do more with it. I don’t care to elaborate on that, but it did spark a need for some soul searching. Secondly, it reminded me that people are thankful for our service and do appreciate what we do. That sounds so obvious, but you’d be surprised. Ron Paul went on record saying “if you live by the gun, you die by the gun” in response to Chris Kyle’s murder. People who don’t agree with the war or those who call for gun control should still respect what we do in my opinion. A Country with no military is a scary thing. I bet if their wishes came true, they’d change their mind real fast. A perfect example of that is the Westboro Baptist Church who was there today picketing. Seeing their fat asses across the street from the stadium today holding up their signs, disgracing our flags and yelling made me so enraged. Enraged to the point that my first thought was “I don’t understand how someone hasn’t sniped them.” I don’t know if that makes me too military minded or just flat out patriotic? I vote both. Below is a photo of them today at Cowboy Stadium. I didn’t take this photo, but I did see this person myself.
Trying not to turn this into a religious rant, but it makes me scratch my head in confusion. I’m not sure how God laughing at a Soldier dying runs parallel with any type of church organization – but whatever. The point of me posting this picture is that with so many of these idiots in today’s world, I was grateful for the 7,000 that showed up to remind the Servicemen and Women that we are still appreciated. One last thing that stood out to me was this: as the uniformed personnel were being ushered out of the stadium, they had us walk up a separate set of stairs to exit. To get there, we walked in between the two rows of Patriot Guard Riders who were lined around the stadium with their American Flags. As I walked past them, I smiled with approval as I realized how many school age children were standing there. A big high five to the parents who allowed their children to miss school today to witness a small piece of history and to show their respect. The family unit seems to be crumbling in our society and I feel like small gestures such as that are signs of old school values and respect. If kids can miss school for a One Direction or Justin Beiber concert, they definitely should be missing school to take part in such a patriotic act.
While there are a lot of things about the murder that don’t make sense to me and I’m sure those details will never be released to the public, one thing is for sure – today was a day I will never forget. In the last 9 months or so, I’ve truly tried to become a more positive person. I fail often, but I try to find the positive in every situation. If one sliver of positive had to come from this horrific loss, I believe it is this: While Chris Kyle was taken too soon, I feel that had he lived to be 85 or 90…..he wouldn’t have received the Honors and Respect that he did today. Unfortunately, we live in a world where we too often forget. Had he lived a long and fulfilling life, our Nation probably would have forgotten the sacrifices he made for our Country and the true American Hero that he was.
Thank you for your service CPO Kyle.