When Taya Kyle arrived for our interview, she walked into the room with the same warm smile that had greeted me last year, when we first met.
At that time, I was interviewing Chris Kyle, her then famous husband and author of “America’s Deadliest Sniper,” about the book, his life, but also their relationship.
Our interview then was different than all the rest he’d done. I was intrigued by the fact that this decorated Navy SEAL, hero to many, was literally brought to a crossroads by a single conversation at his kitchen table. As the two would relate to me, Taya was sick of being a single mother. Chris had been home just a few weeks, out of a three year stretch of deployments. She told him, that it was either the service, or his wife and kids. To me, that story was far more powerful than that of the man who was the deadliest sniper in history. That story was about a decision that would test Chris like perhaps no other in his life. Because of who he was, and what he did. His career defined him as a man, and Taya had essentially asked him to walk away from what made him who he was, to be the husband she needed, wanted, and loved.
As we began to talk, I asked Taya what she missed the most about Chris. It would be the most emotional, and poignant moment of our interview.
Fighting back tears, Taya said to me, “I miss everything. He was patient, supportive, funny, loving. I miss his hands, hugs. I miss him laughing with the kids every day. I don’t think there’s much that I don’t miss about him. One of a kind.”
Taya talked a lot about their two children. How much they missed their dad, and the special things they do to remember him. Often, the three of them will snuggle in bed, and share funny stories about daddy, and the jokester he was. Always able to bring a smile, or a laugh, to the kids, and his wife as well. But Taya admits the tears can come at any time. Often when they least expect them. Taya says the house still has pictures of Chris up on the walls, just as when he was here. He is a forever presence in the home they built.
Taya shared with me the fact that on the day of Chris’ procession, she chose to ride in the hearse with her husband. Their children rode in a separate vehicle with her parents, and were understanding that mommy wanted to be with daddy, one last time.
We talked about our interview last year, and the sense I had, that while Chris was “all in” on his decision to leave the Navy, and be a full time husband and father, there seemed to be a side of him that may have had a bit of regret. Taya agreed that what I felt, was tangible. Chris had taken some time to navigate his way through leaving the career he lived, breathed and loved, and that to me, is completely understandable. But she also told me that by around January of this year, they had settled into a good place in their lives. Like they were when they first met and fell in love. Chris was moving forward with his second book, he was around to be that husband and father he wanted to be, and he had come to terms with life away from the action.
But with that progress, also came some angst. Taya had a feeling that things were too good. One of those “be careful what you wish for” moments. She’s not sure if it was a sixth sense, but she is a woman who had lived in fear of losing her husband in battle every day during his deployments, but this fear was different. She never could have predicted what happened, but she just felt like things were so good, something would come along to possibly mess it up. How prophetic that thought would end up being.
Talking about Eddie Ray Routh, the Marine reservist charged in the murder of Chris Kyle, and his friend Chad Littlefield, is something that Taya Kyle is not interested in. When I broached the subject, it was very clear where she stands. I asked if given the chance, would she have anything to say to Routh.
I added, “No words for him?”
What Taya Kyle will say about Routh, who reportedly had been treated at the VA hospital in Dallas for PTSD, is that PTSD is not a justification, for murder.
She said “They (those with PTSD) worked through their struggles, just like we work through our struggles. They are phenomenal people and it doesn’t change their character. Might change their mood once in a while, might have sleepless nights, doesn’t make them a murderer. You’re not going to blame someone else, in my opinion, when you murder two people in cold blood.”
When we talked about the memorial service for Chris, I told her that even many of us in the newsroom that day watched, and wondered, just how could she get up there and muster the strength to speak. I wondered if that day had been a blur to her. She said it was anything but a blur.
She remembers it all. She chose to get up there to speak. She declined having anyone assist her, other than the Marines who stood around her in support. She said to me “I remember it being powerful.” She said she was amazed so many people came. Some 7,000 by estimates, and she had many thanks for so many, like the Jones family, who stepped forward with short notice to offer Cowboy’s stadium as a venue, at no cost, to make that memorial happen.
Kyle is in the very beginning days, of a new life. A journey without the man she loved. She is not the first to walk this path, nor will she be the last. There will be sleepless nights ahead, and heartfelt questions from her children, and she says there will always be answers. The only question she may never be able to answer, is why.
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