A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


February 11, 2014

Chris Kyle: The Character Of A Man

   
     February 2, 2014 was the first-year anniversary of the death of Chris Kyle, ex-Navy Seal and the most lethal sniper in American military history.   Here in Texas, he will never be forgotten and that's why when our friends Chris and Darcy Douglas approached  my husband and I about serving on the Board of Directors for a charitable event that would honor his memory, we never hesitated.  It was their brainchild to develop the first Annual Chris Kyle Memorial Roping and Auction; an event that would benefit Base Camp 40, a group close to Chris Kyle's heart.  Through their love for Country and our Veterans, Base Camp 40 desires to give back to, and honor, military veterans with outdoor hunting adventures and an opportunity to taste what they've fought so hard for... freedom.  That exemplified Chris Kyle, and was why he had made BC40 part of his efforts to give back to those who have so valiantly served our country.
     So while the first Annual Chris Kyle Memorial Roping and Auction was to benefit BC40, it was very much a weekend about Chris Kyle.  I regret that we never had the opportunity to meet Chris in person, but we've been blessed to spend some time with, and have had the opportunity to get to know, Wayne and Deby, his parents.  It didn't take long to see where he got his reputation for compassion, patriotism and toughness.  We have reveled in their stories of the son who always kept them on their toes; and their pride in his achievements were justifiable.
     But that pride wasn't centered on the many military honors he was awarded during his four tours in Iraq --  two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation -- they were equally proud of the man he was.  And if it's true that you can judge a man's character by the friends he surrounds himself with, then Chris Kyle was every inch the American hero they say he was.
     We met some of the most amazing people this weekend; friends that Chris grew up with and who knew him in college.  When you talked to these good folks (and I'm not using that term lightly) you heard in their voices, more than the words they were speaking, just how much Chris meant to them.  Yes, he was the best selling author and "celebrity Seal", but to them, and with them, he was still their larger-than-life, dare-devil, crazy, caring friend.  They shared so many memories with us; we spent a lot of hours smiling and laughing as they told their stories.  But inevitably, the laughter turned to suppressed tears as it was evident that they miss him terribly.  The same was true of others who worked with him in and out of the military; he was a guy who made an impression.
     So, it wasn't surprising that they agreed to volunteer 15-plus hour days during the coldest, most miserable Texas winter weather I have experienced in a long time.  They worked at selling clothing and merchandise for the memorial event; helped set up and man a Silent Auction; decorated tables for a VIP dinner; helped coordinate the purchases from a Live Auction that alone netted nearly $55,000 for Base Camp 40; and carried/lifted more boxes, cartons, and cases, while running any and all errands that were requested of them.  They never complained, because they were doing it for their friend Chris Kyle ... as was everyone who was involved with the event this weekend.
"From Cowboy Boots to Combat Boots"
     Another extraordinary aspect of this weekend was to see the cowboy and military cultures come together; each to honor one of their own.  It's not everyday that you see cowboys in their boots and hats, along with low-key Navy Seals, Special Forces and Marines -- and all sharing the same stage.  It was simply the unifying spirit of Chris Kyle that brought them together.
      You may not be aware of it, but before Chris was a Navy Seal, he was every inch a cowboy.  My husband painted him as a young man, an image that his father, Wayne, wanted him to be remembered by.  And the Professional Bull Riders organization were huge backers of this event.  (See article). As Chris's brother, Jeff, who served in the Marines, said, "This organization (PBR) is all like-minded people, just like the military. We all have the same mentality, same mindset to get out there and get it done no matter what the cost is. From day one since the tragedy, just to see -- no matter where we’re at in the country -- just to see the outpouring of support that we get from our fellow Americans; to stand up and show their support for my brother and to our family ... it goes without saying, it’s unbelievable.”
     During a recent PBR event, Wayne Kyle had this to say:  "This means a lot to us and to see all the people that recognize Chris for what he accomplished and what he stood for. Not just because I’m his father, but he was a true American hero, and he hated that. He hated that label. He said the heroes are the ones that are still over there fighting. He said the heroes are the ones that had gone before him.”
     And that's why me, my husband, Chris's friends, and all the people who volunteered at this latest memorial event showed up.... to carry on his legacy of serving those who have served us.  Despite the cold, the aching feet, the tired backs, we were all there with one person on our minds... Chris Kyle.
Honor guard for
Chris Kyle
     The past year has been difficult for the Kyle family, and there have been a number of events that sought to honor and memorialize the man the country knew as a hero, but to them was their son and brother. According to Wayne, his son may have been so many things to so many people, but to himself he was “just a normal guy.”  And sharing memories with people who have sought the family out has been bitter sweet.  "The stories have warmed our hearts, but then that brings up the memories and we miss him—that void that’s there. We’re thankful that we still have Jeff and his family. Yeah, it’s good to be a part of this event. If Chris was still here today, that’s what he would be doing. If somebody would have approached him about doing an event like that, oh, he would have jumped at the chance."
      And that's exactly why it was important to make this event the success that it was.  Because his closest friends told us that he would have loved what this event stood for, and would have been pleased with how it was conducted, it made the success of this event even sweeter.  And it was important to help the Kyle family, who has made it their goal to carry on his legacy.  Chris Kyle may no longer be with us, but it is quite evident that in the state of Texas his legacy will live on.  As he said in his book, American Sniper, "I've lived the literal meaning of the 'Land of the Free' and 'Home of the Brave'.  It's not corny for me.  I feel it in my heart.  I feel it in my chest."
     This past weekend, there was lots of energy, emotion, laughter and tears; none dared call it corny, and it goes without saying that we all felt it in our hearts, too.  It went by many names:  honor, respect, integrity and love; but it all added up to one thing: a tribute to a man of great character.  And that's worth celebrating.

To Jill and Bo, Jon, Bridgette, Kristen, Ron:  You all helped Chris be more than the legend to us.  Thank you for sharing your memories.  And we celebrate these new friendships in his honor.  And to Wayne, Deby, and Jeff:  we hope this weekend showed you how much all of us respect the memory of your son and brother.  Thank you for letting us be a part of it. 

Mark 10:45   "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
       
   
   

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