In full disclosure, when he was alive, I interviewed Chris Kyle twice. Once in person and once over email. I never got the impression that he was lying to me in our conversation. He seemed about as honest and as straightforward an individual as I’ve ever met.
But after doing some research into Chris, it also became apparent that Chris was a bit of a jokester. He had a sense of humor. He liked to get a rise out of people. I think many SEALs are wired that way. They like to have a bit of fun with the public. So did Chris stretch the truth from time to time to add to his “legendary” status (his nickname was “The Legend” in the teams)? It wouldn’t surprise me.
Yet, not all lies are created equal. Telling tall tales to joe public — like sniping looters and armed agitators from atop the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina (killing as many as 30), or gunning down two would-be carjackers in southwest Dallas with a Colt 1911, or maybe even punching Jesse Ventura in the face outside a bar in Coronado, CA — is different than lying about one’s military record. Call it a hunch, but I don’t believe Chris ever lied about his bravery in combat, his number of kills in action or his commitment to his brothers in the teams.
However, a report by The Intercept calls Kyle’s military record into question, saying in essence that he lied about the medals he received for his service. This report prompted swift condemnation from many Chris Kyle supporters, including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry who wrote an op-ed for Fox News defending the deceased SEAL.
“The guiding premise of the article was that Chris Kyle, known to a grateful nation as its best-ever sniper in multiple combat zones, was a liar,” wrote Perry. “The writer’s assertion is that Kyle laid claim to more medals than the military had awarded him for his valor in combat.”
“At issue was a disparity between Kyle’s account in his book, ‘American Sniper,’ records obtained from a seemingly indifferent Navy through a Freedom of Information Act request and Kyle’s official DD-214,” continued Perry. “The first mentioned two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars, the Navy recalled one Silver Star and 3 Bronze Stars and the DD-214 credited him with TWO Silver Stars and SIX Bronze Stars.”
“If there is any inaccuracy in Kyle’s account it’s that he didn’t take ENOUGH credit for his awards,” said Perry.
Perry goes on to say that the “DD-214” also known as the “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty” is the official and definitive “record of a person’s time in the military, used to prove the authenticity, duration and character of said service.” In other words, the Intercept’s investigation is bunk as it ignores what is clearly stated in the DD-214.
Case closed? Well, not really. There is still a discrepancy. In “American Sniper,” Kyle only recounts two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars when, according to the DD-214, he had two silver Stars and SIX Bronze stars.” Why did Kyle shortchange himself that sixth Bronze Star in his book? It doesn’t appear there is an answer to that question.
What’s my take on this whole ordeal? It’s a non-story, story. See, due to his legacy as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, his popularity in the military and firearms community and his indisputable heroism on the field of battle, Kyle — forgive the pun — will always be a target. There will always be those who want to tear him down and discredit his accomplishments. That said, Kyle wasn’t a saint either. He wasn’t perfect. He was a mortal human being, flawed like the rest of us.
I think we should let Chris Kyle RIP. And if you’re a fan of the man as I am, I think we should continue to honor his legacy by serving those who served us. In short, help your local veterans.