Photo from SOFREP.
Former Navy SEAL, sniper, and decorated American hero Chris Kyle, 38, was a man who had many friends. Deployed four times to Iraq, he often wore a ball cap on the front lines with the Texas Longhorn emblazoned on it, saying he wanted the enemy to know he was a Texan and that Texans shoot straight.
On Monday, those friends and family members came together in Dallas at Cowboys Stadium to honor and memorialize a fallen American hero with words, prayer, laughter, tears, and music. For an hour and 48 minutes, thousands watched inside the stadium while millions more watched online through live-feed and on television. The area around the stadium came to a standstill ... nearby sports bars played the memorial service on TVs to a hushed crowd while servers moved quietly among patrons.
Inside, a stage had been set up at center field just beyond the coffin, covered with flowers, pictures, American flags, a flak jacket, boots, helmet, and more photos. Directly in front of it were rows with hundreds of chairs that were packed with mourners who had come to pay their respects including Texas Rangers, military, and law enforcement. An overhead balcony was also packed with mourners.
A processional of dozens of Scottish bagpipers and drummers led the way as a Navy Honor Guard slowly carried the American flag-draped casket into the stadium, down the fifty-yard line that was the center aisle between sections of chairs, and placed it directly on the Texas star at center field.
When the Navy SEAL creed was read, dozens of SEALs through the audience stood at attention. Friends, co-workers, military members, and family spoke of the man they knew and loved. On nearby easels were larger-than-life photos of the man they were euologizing. A letter from Kyle's parents was read by a sailor ... "parents' love lasts forever."
Perhaps one of the most touching parts was toward the end when Chris Kyle's wife Kaya, standing at the podium and surrounded by military men, spoke lovingly and honestly about her husband, sometimes stopping as she softly sobbed, but quickly recomposing herself, paying homage to the man who taught her, as she said, to be more independent than she ever wanted. As she spoke through tears, some in the audience quietly wept. She also spoke lovingly of Chris' friend Chad Littlefield, 35, who was shot and killed with him, recalling the closeness of the two men and how they had leaned on one another right until the end.
After Kaya had finished speaking and left the stage, country star Randy Travis walked up with just a guitar, sat down on a stool in front of a microphone, and said he was honored to be asked to sing a song that had been special to the Kyles. He proceeded to sing "Whisper My Name," and then encouraged all to join him in "Amazing Grace."
And then they played "Taps." As the bugler finished, the Navy Honor Guard slowly returned to surround the casket as the bagpipes and drummers began to play the recessional, leading the way back down the fifty-yard line followed by the casket that was followed by Kaya Kyle who held her two children by the hands, and other family members and friends.
A private funeral service will be held for the family Tuesday morning in their home town of Midlothian, and then a motorcade will begin and drive from Midlothian to Texas State Cemetery in Austin. The procession is expected to take four to five hours, and thousands are expected to line the roadways and overpasses waving American flags to honor Chris Kyle. The Patriot Guard Riders will escort the hearse to Austin.
Among those in attendance at the memorial service were Sarah and Todd Palin, who had gotten to know Kyle on the NBC reality show "Stars Earn Stripes," a reality show I actually watched during its short run on TV. On Monday Palin posted on her Facebook:
Todd and I are in Dallas today to attend Chris Kyle’s memorial and funeral service. I find it sad to see that flags aren’t flying at half staff for this American hero. We’re surrounded today by American patriots here in Texas – by Chris’ fellow veterans and active duty warriors. In honor of them, I hope our commander in chief pays his respects in some gesture of condolence for their comrade in arms who sacrificed so much to keep him and all of us safe.We are grateful and humbled to have men like Chris Kyle and his fellow military members willing to fight for our freedom. If you are moved to donate to the families of Chris Kyle or Chad Littlefield, here is the information.
We may never know to what extent Chris kept us free or how many lives he saved by his brave actions in the line of fire. But his fellow warriors know how important he was. My son Track couldn’t meet Chris when Todd and I first met him because Track was deployed to Iraq. Then when we got to know Chris even better, our son was deployed in Afghanistan. We’ve met a lot of people in recent years, and Track has been privileged to meet them as well. But he said about Chris, “Mom, he’s the ONE person in the entire world I would be star-struck to meet. He’s it.”
God bless this great warrior. Let us keep his wife and children in our prayers, and may we never forget him or his sacrifice.