While he was alive, Chris Kyle already had a well-established legacy as the most lethal sniper in the history of the U.S. military. But after his death in 2013, his legacy grew even more, especially following the release of the film based on his autobiography, American Sniper.
Born on April 8, 1974 in Odessa, Texas, Chris became a professional bronco rider following his high school graduation. But after he injured his arm, his rodeo career came to an end, and he made the decision to try and become a Navy SEAL.
After training, Chris became a Navy sniper and ended up going on four tours of duty to Iraq. The Department of Defense credits Chris with a total 160 confirmed sniper kills over the course of his four tours.
In an interview with Time magazine, Chris explained the inner conflict he felt the first time he knew he had to shoot someone.
“The first time you’re killing someone, you’re not even sure if you can do it,” Chris said. “I mean you think you can, but you never know until you’re actually put in that position and you do it.”
But despite the conflicts Chris went through, he had no regrets about any of his kills, knowing that he helped protect the lives of his men.
Chris was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2009 and published his autobiography, American Sniper in 2012, which was later used as the inspiration for the 2014 film of the same title.
When asked why he chose to write the book, Chris said, “I wanted to be able to get it out about not the sacrifices that the military members make, but the sacrifices that their families have to make.”
After his own family made so many sacrifices for him, Chris focused on being a good husband and father following his discharge from the Navy.
But his chance to enjoy a long, happy life with his family was cut short on February 2, 2013, when Chris and his friend Chad Littlefield were shot and killed at a shooting range near Chalk Mountain, Texas. Chris and Chad came to the range with former Marine Eddie Ray Routh, who was later found guilty of killing the two men.
Today, Chris’s wife, Taya Kyle continues to keep his legacy alive through the Taya and Chris Kyle Foundation, which she founded in 2014. The foundation’s aim is to “continue a post-deployment legacy Chris began, aiming to enhance military service, veteran and first responder marriages by providing a variety of experiences that helps them escape the everyday rigors that come with a life of service.”
In 2015, Texas governor Greg Abbott further cemented Chris’s place in history by declaring February 2 as Chris Kyle Day.
You can watch Chris’s full interview with Time in the video below.
Although Chris may be gone, his legacy lives on through American Sniper, his wife, Taya, and the incredible foundation named in his honor. May he rest in peace.