In a tribute filled with prayers, eulogies and country tunes sung by Randy Travis, friends and fellow SEAL members remembered Mr. Kyle, 38, as the military’s deadliest sniper, a Navy man who hated the water and a devoted father who walked away from his military career to spend more time with his wife and two children, ages 8 and 6.
“God knew it would take the toughest and softest-hearted man on earth to get a hardheaded, cynical, hard-loving woman like me to see what God needed me to see, and he chose you for the job,” Mr. Kyle’s wife, Taya Kyle, told the audience. “He chose well.”
On Feb. 2, Mr. Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield took the veteran, Eddie Ray Routh, 25, to a remote shooting range in Erath County. According to the authorities, Mr. Routh turned his weapon on the two men, shooting and killing them before fleeing in Mr. Kyle’s truck.
Investigators believe that Mr. Kyle, an expert marksman who survived four tours of duty in Iraq and became known for spotting enemy targets at extraordinary distances, was gunned down at point-blank range by a mentally ill young man he had tried to befriend and help, as he had many other veterans struggling to adjust to life at home.
In the hours before and after his arrest, Mr. Routh told relatives and investigators that he killed Mr. Kyle and Mr. Littlefield. Court documents suggest he may have done so because he believed the two men were trying to kill him. Mr. Routh remains at the Erath County Jail and faces capital murder charges. He and his relatives had told the police in recent weeks and months that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
On Monday, Mr. Routh’s name was never spoken during the two-hour service, which a Cowboys spokesman said was attended by roughly 7,000 people. Relatives and friends sat at the 50-yard line as pictures of Mr. Kyle were displayed on a giant screen. Many of the mourners were Texans who had never met Mr. Kyle. On the stage, a helmet and vest were draped on a cross behind a pair of boots and two rifles. His coffin rested at the center of the field. Motorcycle riders in leather jackets stood at attention at the sidelines holding American flags.
One Navy SEAL member, who spoke anonymously, described Mr. Kyle as the epitome of the team’s ethos. “Will every Frogman, past and present, please stand,” he said. After a number of men in suits and Naval uniforms rose, he recited the SEAL creed.
In a funeral procession planned for Tuesday, Mr. Kyle’s body will be carried 200 miles from Midlothian, the Dallas suburb where he attended high school and returned years later to live with his wife and children, to Austin. He will be buried there at the Texas State Cemetery.
In Iraq, Mr. Kyle was known for protecting American troops while perched on a rooftop with a bolt-action rifle, describing his use of deadly skill as payback for the 9/11 attacks.
Back at home, Mr. Kyle, the author of “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History,” continued to protect troops by other means. He helped create the nonprofit Fitco Cares Foundation to help veterans overcome post-traumatic stress disorder by providing exercise equipment and counseling. Though his book became a best seller, he never collected money from it, friends said, donating the proceeds to the families of two friends and fallen SEAL members, Ryan Job and Marc Lee.
“I was speechless, overwhelmed and in tears,” Mr. Lee’s mother, Debbie Lee, told the audience about the day she learned of the donation. “Chris didn’t publish that book for an income or to be famous. He hated the spotlight. Chris did that for his teammates.”
Mr. Kyle grew up raising cows for the National FFA Organization. In high school, he planned to become a county agricultural agent, but joined the Navy instead. He was still in training in San Diego in 2001 when he met his wife, Taya.
In a passage she wrote for his book, she recalled telling Mr. Kyle that she thought SEAL personnel were “arrogant, self-centered and glory-seeking.”
“I would lay down my life for my country,” she recalled him responding. “How is that self-centered?” They talked some more, and finally Mr. Kyle announced that he was going home. “Well, you were saying about how you never would date a SEAL or go out with one,” he told her. “Oh no,” she replied, “I said I would never marry one. I didn’t say I wouldn’t go out with one.”
They married not long after, and had a son and a daughter.
As Mrs. Kyle spoke Monday, a Marine in uniform stood by her, providing encouragement and, at one point when she needed a tissue, his white glove. She spoke to her children, her sobs echoing through the silent stadium. “So, my sweet angels, we will put one foot in front of the other,” she said.
At the end of the service, Mr. Kyle’s wife and children walked hand in hand behind the uniformed pallbearers as the sound of bagpipes filled the stadium.
Kathryn Jones contributed reporting.
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