Nearly 7,000 people gathered at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Monday for a public memorial honoring Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL sniper who was shot and killed on February 2 at a North Texas gun range.
The two-hour service was open to the public. It included reminiscences from Kyle's wife, Taya; fellow SEALs and family friends; and performances by country singers Randy Travis and Joe Nichols. Taya Kyle closed the service with an emotional but strong speech about her husband.
"I stand before you a broken woman, but I am now and always will be the wife of a man who was a warrior both on and off the battlefield," she said.
"I stand before you a broken woman, but I am now and always will be the wife of a man who was a warrior both on and off the battlefield," said Kyle's widow, Taya.
Kyle, 38, was an American hero who did four combat tours in Iraq as a Navy SEAL; he's been called the deadliest sniper in American history, with more than 150 confirmed kills. The man charged with killing him is Eddie Ray Routh, 25, another Iraqi war veteran who has also been charged with killing Kyle's friend Chad Littlefield.
As attendees entered the stadium, they were greeted with larger-than-life images of Kyle on the Jumbotron; scenes of Kyle building sand castles with his children, riding horses and vacationing on ski trips were intermingled with images of war.
More than a dozen speakers shared memories but refrained from sharing their names, preferring to keep the focus on Kyle. Singer Joe Nichols performed his song "The Impossible" without so much as an introduction.
Friends from high school described Kyle as someone who stood up to bullies and was always quick to laugh and forgive. In a lighter moment, one of Kyle's oldest friends described BB gun battles of yore. "He wasn't as good of a shot back then," the friend said with a chuckle.
After retiring from the Navy, Kyle helped found security company Craft International and was an acclaimed author. In his spare time, he helped veterans suffering from PTSD.
A minister opened the service by praying for Kyle's family and for the one who took his life.
"Help us to forgive our enemy who stole Chris' life," he said before asking for justice through the court system. The deeply religious service frequently included readings from the Bible, prayers and songs.
Taya also devoted some time to Littlefield, whom Kyle befriended after leaving the Navy; she recalled that they enjoyed target shooting together. She shared stories of Kyle as a husband and father before addressing her children.
"We will put one foot in front of the other and remember how silly dad was. ... We will hug each other tightly just like dad did with us," Taya said.
Finally, she spoke directly to her dearly departed husband. "Chris, there isn’t enough time to tell me everything you mean to me and everything you taught me," Taya said. "There is something only God and I have known for a long time. God worked through you to make me into the woman I was supposed to be."
Randy Travis gave the ceremony a powerful closing by singing two songs back-to-back: "Whisper My Name" and "Amazing Grace." Few in the audience remained unmoved.
On Tuesday, a 200-mile funeral procession will begin in Midlothian and end at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, where Kyle will be laid to rest.