Prior to the untimely death of Chris Kyle, all I knew about the former Navy SEAL was what I learned from a single appearance he made on The O’Reilly Factor when he was promoting his book, American Sniper, several months ago. I never read the book, and I never saw another interview with him.
So on February 3rd, when reports of his murder first began hitting the wires, I couldn’t quite explain why I took the news as hard as I did. The tragedy weighed heavily on my mind for days. I found myself researching everything I could about Kyle’s life, including his military career and his dedication to helping struggling veterans. When Ron Paul tastelessly mocked Kyle’s death on Twitter, I was not only offended by the former presidential candidate’s words, but also found myself taking the words personal. It felt more as if it was a friend or family member that had lost their life, than it did some stranger who I’d never met.
It wasn’t just that the story was heartbreaking. I hear and read of heartbreaking stories all the time. Chris Kyle’s death was different, and I had to watch his interview with O’Reilly again to be reminded of why…
What struck me about Chris Kyle wasn’t just his record number of sniper kills, all the medals he won, or his four deployments to Iraq. It wasn’t just his numerous brushes with death, the intrigue behind Iraqi insurgents placing an $20,000 bounty on his head, or even his humorous retelling of a physical altercation he had with Jesse Ventura.
What struck me about Chris Kyle was his unwavering belief in the nobility and morality of the service he provided to this country. In a role that many people these days would probably find cold and heartless, Kyle was incredibly at ease with the duties he performed and found nothing but pride in the fact that his actions protected his fellow Americans.
“It’s not a problem taking out someone who wants your people dead,” Kyle told O’Reilly. “It’s not a problem at all.”
When asked by O’Reilly if he had any regrets for all of the human beings that he had killed, Kyle explained that his only regrets were the enemy’s victims who he wasn’t able to save.
It was a fascinating perspective on the Iraq war and military engagement in general. It was also disheartening, in a way, to listen to what he was saying and think about all of the people who surely took deep offense to the words that came out of mouth. Some of those people even celebrated Kyle’s death across social media shortly after the story broke. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by such a reaction. After all, in today’s society, we’re increasingly conditioned to view the world through a prism of moral relativism. We’re supposed to put ourselves in the shoes of our sworn enemies, identify with their motivations, self-deprecate, and think about what we can do to make them hate us less. We’re not supposed to feel good about getting them before they get us.
Fortunately, Kyle didn’t see things that way… and he wasn’t afraid to say it. There was no question in his mind of who was right and who was wrong. He lived his life with moral clarity, both in his service to our country and his love and selflessness for his fellow Americans. I found that not only refreshing, but highly admirable.
Unfortunately, it was that love and selflessness that put him in the company of Eddie Ray Routh – a fellow veteran reportedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who Kyle was trying to help, like he did so many others. In taking Kyle’s life, Routh needlessly deprived this country of a true American hero – one who deserves our endless gratitude and remembrance.
On Tuesday, Chris Kyle will be laid to rest, and he’ll certainly be missed – probably by more people than he could have imagined. What I hope isn’t laid to rest with him is his genuine belief in a moral goodness of America that transcends shallow political-correctness and collective self-righteousness.
We need more people of Chris Kyle’s moral integrity.