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THE DALLAS OFFICES OF CRAFT INTERNATIONAL, the defense contractor where Chris Kyle was president until his death, were immaculate when I visited him. You needed one of the broad-chested security guards from downstairs as an escort just to get to that floor of the building. Sitting under thick glass in the lobby, there was an exceptionally rare original English translation of Galileo’s Dialogue (circa 1661) about the sun, the earth, and which revolved around the other. A conference room held a safe full of gigantic guns—guns illegal to own without a Department of Defense contract.

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At thirty-eight, Kyle was a large man, six foot two, 230 pounds, and the muscles in his neck, shoulders, and forearms made him seem even bigger, like a scruffy-bearded giant. When he greeted me with a direct look in the eye and a firm handshake, his huge bear paw enveloped my hand. That day he had on boots, jeans, a black T-shirt, and a baseball cap. It’s the same thing he wore most days he came to the office, or when he watched his daughter’s ballet recitals, or during television interviews with Conan O’Brien or Bill O’Reilly.

This was one of the rare chances when he’d have a few hours to talk. Over the next three days, he would be teaching a sniper course to the Dallas SWAT teams and had three book signings, one at a hospital in Tyler (for a terminal cancer patient whose doctor reached out to Kyle), one at Ray’s Sporting Goods in Dallas, and one at the VA Hospital in Fort Worth. He’d also have to fly down to Austin for a shooting event Craft was putting on for Speaker of the House John Boehner and several other congressmen.

“We are not doing this for free,” he said, anticipating a question. “We accept Republicans and Democrats alike, as long as the money is good.”

A few weeks later, he would have to cancel a weekend meeting with me because he was invited to hang out with George W. Bush. “Sorry,” he said when asked if anyone else might be able to join. “Not even my wife’s allowed to come.”

Chris Kyle loved the Dallas Cowboys and the University of Texas Longhorns. He loved going to the Alamo, looking at historic artifacts. The license plate on his truck had a picture of the flag used during the Texas Revolution, depicting a cannon, a star, and the words COME AND TAKE IT. Being in the military forced him to move a lot, and neither of his children was born in Texas. But for each birth, he had his family send a box of dirt from home—so that the first ground his child’s foot touched would be Texas soil.

He would often apologize to Vietnam veterans or their children for the way servicemen were treated when they first came back from war, even though he hadn’t even been born at the time.

He was outspoken on a lot of issues. He believed strongly in the Second Amendment, politely decrying the “incredible stupidity” of gun control laws anytime he was asked. He said he was hesitant to see the movie Zero Dark Thirty because he’d heard that it was a lot of propaganda for the Obama administration. On the night of the 2012 presidential election, he posted to his tens of thousands of Facebook fans: “Wow. I didn’t know there would be so many stupid people in this country. Oh well, better buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride to socialism.”

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When Bob Costas discussed gun control during a football game, Kyle took to Facebook to contradict him. “FOOL!” he wrote. “If you are gonna hold the gun responsible for killing a person, then you need to hold the spoon responsible for making Rosie O’Donnell fat!”

Around the same time, he posted this: “If you don’t like what I have to say or post, you forget one thing, I don’t give a shit what you think. LOL.”

He didn’t worry about sounding politically incorrect. The Craft International company slogan, emblazoned around the Punisher skull on the logo, reads, “Despite what your momma told you, violence does solve problems.”

His views were nuanced, though. “If you hate the war, that’s fine,” he told me. “But you should still support the troops. They don’t get to pick where they’re deployed. They just gave the American people a blank check for anything up to and including the value of their lives, and the least everyone else can do is be thankful. Buy them dinner. Mow their yard. Bake them cookies.”

“The best way to describe Chris,” his wife, Taya, says, “is ‘extremely multifaceted.’ ”

He was a brutal warrior but a gentle father and husband. He was a patient instructor, and he was a persistent, sophomoric jokester. If he had access to your Facebook account, he might announce to all your friends and family that you’re gay and finally coming out of the closet. If he really wanted to make you squirm, he might get hold of your phone and scroll through your photos threatening to see if you kept naked pictures of your girlfriend. And if you took any of it too seriously, you might face the risk of getting lovingly choked out.

There was a party trick he liked to perform, a sleeper hold that would render a man unconscious in seconds. Kyle called it a “hug.” It started in high school and didn’t stop. Eventually, by the time he was a national hero, people would dare him to do it to them, saying they wouldn’t go down.

Kyle could also be kind beyond measure: giving away 100 percent of his share of the proceeds from his book, for instance. Or offering to let mothers of his fallen SEAL teammates live in his home. Or sitting for hours with an annoying, awed reporter—then inviting him to tag along and observe his life for a few days.

We had originally focused on me writing a story about his transition, the strange journey from the sniper picking off targets to the suburban T-ball coach. He’d done a lot of interviews and seemed so complex, so interesting from a journalistic standpoint. It wasn’t just about reconciling the killing and the kindness. He seemed to have readjusted to civilian life so well at a time when so many were struggling. He seemed to bear the mantle that comes along with being a celebrated war hero reluctantly but graciously.

His story had meaning politically, socially, historically. But it also excited the child inside of me. This was a man who’d been described as a “real-life G.I. Joe.” Right there, a few feet away from where we sat at Craft, were the kind of giant guns you only see in high-budget action movies. And with his throaty Texas accent, he would answer any question I could come up with.

Kyle liked when people thought of him as a dumb hillbilly, since he actually had a remarkable ability to retain information, whether it was a mission briefing, the details of a business meeting, or his encyclopedic knowledge of his own hero, Vietnam-era Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock. While on the sniper rifle, Kyle, a former bronco buster, had to do complicated math, accounting for the speed of the wind, the spin of a bullet (he could explain the Coriolis effect better than a lot of science teachers), and the curvature of the earth—and he had to do it quickly, under the most intense pressure imaginable. Those were the moments when he thrived.

The most common question he was asked was easy for him to answer. He said he never regretted any of his kills, which weren’t all men.

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“I regret the people I couldn’t kill before they got to my boys,” he said. That’s how he referred to the men and women he served with, across the branches: “my boys.”

He said he didn’t enjoy killing, but he did like protecting Americans and allies and civilians. He was the angel of death, sprawled flat atop a roof, his University of Texas Longhorns ball cap turned backward as he picked off enemy targets one by one before they could hurt his boys. He was the guardian, assigned to watch over open-air street markets and elections, the places that might make good marks for insurgent terrorists.

“You don’t think of the people you kill as people,” he said. “They’re just targets. You can’t think of them as people with families and jobs. They rule by putting terror in the hearts of innocent people. The things they would do—beheadings, dragging Americans through the streets alive—the things they would do to little boys and women just to keep them terrified and quiet”—he paused for a moment and slowed down. “That part is easy. I definitely don’t have any regrets about that.”

He said he didn’t feel like a hero. “I’m just a regular guy. I just did a job. I was in some badass situations, but it wasn’t just me. My teammates made it possible.” He gave all the credit to his training, to the military. He matter-of-factly explained that he just so happened to come across more targets that fit the very narrow rules of engagement. He wasn’t the best sniper in the SEAL teams, he said. “I’m probably middle of the pack. I was just in the right spots at the right times.”

The way he saw it, the most difficult thing he ever did was getting out of the Navy.

“I left knowing the guy who replaced me,” he said. “If he dies, or if he messes up and other people die, that’s on me. You really feel like you’re letting down these guys you’ve gone through hell with.”

The hardest part of leaving the service? “Missing my boys. Missing being around them in the action. That’s your whole life, every day for years. I hate to say it, but when you’re back and you’re just walking around a mall or something, you feel like a pussy.” It nagged at him. “You hear someone whining about something at a stoplight, and it’s like, Man, three weeks ago I was getting shot at, and you’re complaining about—I don’t even care what.”

There was also the struggle to readjust to his family life. “When I got out, I realized I barely knew my kids,” he said. “I barely knew my wife. In the three years before I got out, I spent a total of six months at home. It’s hard to go from God, Country, Family to God, Family, Country.”

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But three years after he left the SEALs, he had a job he liked. He could do (mildly) badass things: shoot big guns, detonate an occasional string of explosives, be around a lot of other former special-operations types. His marriage was finally back in a good place. He had a book on the bestseller list. And he had the chance to help veterans through a number of charities.

“A lot of these guys just miss being around their boys, too,” he said. “They need guys who speak their speak. They don’t need to be treated like they’re special.”

He’d often take vets out to the gun range. Being around people who understood what they’d been through, being able to relax and shoot off some rounds, it was a little like group therapy.

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With his family, and with training people, helping people, he had found a new purpose. Chris Kyle could do anything if he had a purpose. He’d been like that since he was a little boy.



BOOK EXCERPT:

The #1 New York Times bestselling memoir of U.S. Navy Seal Chris Kyle, and the source for Clint Eastwood’s blockbuster movie which was nominated for six academy awards, including best picture. From 1999 to 2009, U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle recorded the most career sniper kills in United States military history. His fellow American warriors, whom he protected with deadly precision from rooftops and stealth positions during the Iraq War, called him “The Legend”; meanwhile, the enemy feared him so much they named him al-Shaitan (“the devil”) and placed a bounty on his head. Kyle, who was tragically killed in 2013, writes honestly about the pain of war—including the deaths of two close SEAL teammates—and in moving first-person passages throughout, his wife, Taya, speaks openly about the strains of war on their family, as well as on Chris. Gripping and unforgettable, Kyle’s masterful account of his extraordinary battlefield experiences ranks as one of the great war memoirs of all time.

Product Details :

Genre: Biography & Autobiography
Author: Chris Kyle
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release: 2012-01-03
File: 448 Pages
ISBN-13: 9780062082374

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