That was my reaction when someone from our news desk called me on Saturday evening, Feb 2. He told me that Chris Kyle had been murdered. My brain had to first, rationalize, how this man could avoid death threats for years from Iraqi insurgents, survive being shot twice while deployed, avoided dying a few times when he was too close to an IED that went off.
Only to make a decision to come home, for his wife and children, and be taken in an act that he probably never saw coming.
The days, weeks and months ahead, will bring much attention to PTSD, to whether or not Kyle and Chad Littlefield, the other man murdered, should have even taken the suspect to a range.
But for me, my thoughts since I received the phone call, and through all our coverage, have been for his wife Taya, and their two kids.
Last year, when Kyle’s book “American Sniper” came out, I was one of many who interviewed him. But when we set up the interview, I asked if his wife would come as well. I got the feeling I may have been the first to ask, but they agreed. There was a portion of the book that intrigued me more than his number of kills, and Chris’ wife Taya, played a pivotal role. I asked him all the obvious questions, which we all saw in interview after interview, but the story we did on CBS 11 really honed in on the decision he made in 2009, to walk away from everything he knew, as a professional, as a man living his dream in terms of a job.
I won’t soon forget sitting at the end of a gun range, on a stack of railroad ties, with Chris and Taya, and a conversation with the deadliest sniper in U.S. history, and it all came down to love. Taya had been essentially a single mom, for the last three years of Chris’ deployment. And she had given him an ultimatum in 2009 right at their kitchen table, on his R&R leave, her and the kids come first, or stay in the military and we’re gone. To me, that moment was still a bit raw for them to talk about.
But they wanted to, and did. Chris Kyle was to me, a man who lived and breathed what he did in the military. In many ways it defined him. He also told me as much, saying that if for some reason, his wife would change her mind and give him the ok, he said he’d be back In the sniper’s perch in a heartbeat. But at the same time, he spoke openly about the children he really did not know, up until his decision to discharge from his Naval career. He was home just 6 months from 2006-2009. This was a man living in two worlds, so completely apart. But when Taya gave him the ultimatum, just as sure as he would be with a target in his sights, he did not hesitate on the trigger. His family had to come first. In this moment, for this family, that was probably the most rewarding shot Chris Kyle ever took. That was something that made me respect the man even more.
Since he discharged honorably in 2009, he has been home, he’s been a father, and he’s been a husband. As short as his time now was, it was time they as a family, may have never had. An unselfish act, for someone who had all the reason in the world to be selfish.
God bless Chris Kyle, Chad Littlefield, their families, and all who are hurting.