The Myth, The Legend, The American Sniper: Chris Kyle

Former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle posing with a sniper rifle | Courtesy of military.com

Chris Kyle went much of his early life having the military in the back of his mind. However, instead of going to the military right after high school, he figured that he was required to attend college because of pressure from his parents. He decided to attend Tarleton State University in Texas from 1992 to 1994. After his second year of college, Chris decided to drop out of Tarleton State to become a full-time ranch hand until the day he decided to talk to a Navy recruiter. When he found out about the Navy SEALs (SEa, Air, Land) he immediately fell in love, and that was what he set his mind on. He was originally rejected because of a severe arm injury he suffered from earlier in life, but the Navy soon decided to let some of his previous rodeo injuries slide. He now was ready to start the journey to becoming a Navy SEAL.

The SEAL’s training usually graduates less than ten percent of the people that start the training, so the odds were already stacked against him. Chris Kyle ground out some of the most challenging, mentally and physically demanding training in the entire world. After a long and hard six months, Chris was finally awarded the honor of becoming a Navy SEAL. After finishing his training, he was then assigned to his first choice team, which was Seal Team 3. He chose Seal Team 3 because they had been deployed to the Middle East and were likely to return, and he wanted to get into the war as quickly as possible.1 After being assigned, he then reported to them in Coronado, California to get to work.

Chris Kyle running through the desert | Courtesy of pinterest.com

After becoming a Navy SEAL, Chris’ next goal was to become a sniper. After his first deployment to Baghdad in 2003, he was given the chance to go to the SEAL sniper school. He gave up part of his vacation and went back from leave a week early just so he could attend.2 Even though he has subsequently been given the title of the best American sniper ever, Chris never even graduated at the top of his sniper class. In fact, he graduated at about the middle of the pack.3 Although the main focus is on being a good shot, that is not even the half of it. Snipers must be able to identify enemies from a wide range while also remaining hidden. Snipers must move swiftly and quietly so they do not attract any attention. Half of being a sniper is being able to be patient.

After initially being a soldier that worked from the ground in his first tour, Chris became a sniper. In his next two tours, one to Fallujah in 2004 and one to Ramadi in 2006, he learned from others who had been Navy snipers for much longer than he. He was able to pick their brains and learn first hand what it takes to be a sniper in a real war. He was actually unsure whether he would be back for a fourth tour, because he had high blood pressure, but he wanted nothing more than to get back on to the battlefield for his country. Eventually, after meeting with doctors often, and agreeing to give up his chewing tobacco, he was given the OK to go back to the battlefield.4 By his fourth tour, Chris had already made a big name for himself, as his fellow SEALS began giving him nicknames such as “The Myth” and “The Legend.”5 In fact, the Iraqi insurgents gave him a nickname of their own, which was “The Devil of Ramadi.” He terrorized the enemy so much that they put a bounty on his head that was worth as much as $80,000.6 He became such a great sniper that the Navy asked him to write the first ever Sniper Handbook for the Navy.7

Chris Kyle shown with his two children at an Air Force base | Courtesy of survivor-story.com

Chris was deployed back to Baghdad in 2008, and was back to normal business on his fourth tour. He went out for days at a time to oversee Marines and other soldiers through his sniper scope. Usually he was manned with his preferred weapon of choice, the .300 Winchester Magnum bolt-action precision sniper rifle.8 One day he was overseeing a group of Marines from a long way away when he noticed an insurgent that he could barely make out because of the distance. The insurgent had his back against Chris at the time, so he was unable to clarify whether or not it was an insurgent and therefore could not get authorization to shoot. However, as Chris patiently waited, he noticed that he turned and was holding something in his hand. It was a RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). Seeing that, Chris now had the authorization to shoot the enemy carrying the RPG, who was 1.2 miles away. Given that factors such as gravity and wind made it a near impossible shot, Chris had to eyeball it as best he could, because his sniper rifle did not have the setting for such a distance. He finally got the crosshairs where he wanted them, and pulled the trigger. He followed the bullet 1.2 miles, straight to his target. Enemy down.9 He is unsure how many lives he saved, but he saved at least one RPG from entering into a group of Marines that day. He was a hero.

Chris’ fourth tour was cut short because of his blood pressure, which initially almost held him from being deployed. His conditions from it became so bad that he decided to see a Navy doctor, who thought it was best for Chris to punch and head home. After serving for a fourth tour and ten years in the United States military, Chris Kyle decided to retire. He called it one of the hardest decisions he ever had to make, but he had to go home to address his struggling marriage and two young children.10 Chris retired officially with one silver star and four bronze stars. He has been credited with 160 confirmed kills; however, that number fluctuates. Nonetheless, it is the most confirmed kills in the history of the United States military.11 He himself says it is closer to 300, but not all of them were able to get confirmed, leaving him with the official 160 mark.12 Chris fought in the war that was known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was sent out for the initial invasion of Baghdad in 2003, to Fallujah in 2004, to Ramadi in 2006, and then back to Baghdad in 2008.13

On February 2, 2013, Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield went to a shooting range with a former Marine to help him cope with his PTSD, doing something called “therapy shooting.” On that day, Chris and his friend were tragically shot and killed by the Marine named Eddie Routh. Eddie Routh plead insanity, but others believe that it was murder. Many people have different opinions, but we will never know what went through his head on the day he shot and killed two American heroes.

Snapshot of Chris Kyle’s funeral procession | Courtesy of Buzzfeed.com

His funeral was held in the Dallas Cowboys stadium where approximately 7,000 people attended. Clint Eastwood went on to direct a movie of Chris Kyle’s life called American Sniper, which is based on Kyle’s autobiography. The Texas Governor, Chris Abbot, declared that February 2, 2015 would be Chris Kyle Day in the state of Texas.14 Chris’ life was cut short that day, but he has gone down in American history as a hero. He saved countless lives on the battlefield, while protecting many and fighting for his country. He was more than willing to lose his life on the battlefield because of his love for his country. He was a man of his country, and a true American hero.

  1. Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (New York: W. Morrow, 2012), 21, 24, 39.
  2. Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (New York: W. Morrow, 2012), 96.
  3. Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (New York: W. Morrow, 2012), 108.
  4. Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (New York: W. Morrow, 2012), 325.
  5. Scott A. O, “A Sniper does His Deeds, but the Battle Never Ends,” New York Times, C12.
  6. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2017, “Chris Kyle,” by Micah Issitt.
  7. Handbook of Texas Online, 2016, “Kyle, Christopher Scott,” by Soto Hector.
  8. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2017, s.v. “Chris Kyle,” by Micah Issitt.
  9. Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (New York: W. Morrow, 2012), 349.
  10. Handbook of Texas Online, 2016, s.v. “Kyle, Christopher Scott,” by Soto Hector.
  11. Handbook of Texas Online, 2016, s.v. “Kyle, Christopher Scott,” by Soto Hector.
  12. Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (New York: W. Morrow, 2012), 5.
  13. Handbook of Texas Online, 2016, s.v. “Kyle, Christopher Scott,” by Soto Hector.
  14. Handbook of Texas Online, 2016, s.v. “Kyle, Christopher Scott,” by Soto Hector.
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64 Comments

  • I watched the movie “American Sniper” and I remember being fascinated with Chris Kyle’s story. Although I already had a major respect for our troops, seeing what Chris Kyle did and went through just made me see our troops in a whole different light, and gain a deeper respect for them. Sadly his life was cut short, but he will always be remembered as a an American hero.

  • This article was beautifully written and attributed to the story of an American hero. I heard about Chris Kyle’s story when I first watched the movie American Sniper. Chris Kyle continuously served others throughout his life. He was dedicated to helping other war veterans learn how to cope with their PTSD as they re-enter life in the United States. I found the author’s writing style to be engaging for the readers. Great job writing this article!

  • This is a really well done article. Before reading this article, I knew vaguely of Chris Kyle, but did not really know much of his story. He was someone that clearly loved his country and would do anything for it and it is heartbreaking that his life was cut short at home, after serving as many tours as he had.

  • This was a brilliantly written article about a truly brave man. I had heard of his story prior to the movie about him, and I remember the funeral service held for him. I did not know the full details of his life and his career until the movie, however. I think it is highly commendable that after he left the service he was still engaged in helping other service members. He died doing what he spent his life doing, serving. Thanks for the article and for keeping the reader engaged throughout the entire piece.

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