I had the privilege and honor of interviewing Chris Kyle twice.  I never got to know him personally, but I can say that from our limited interactions he was the genuine article.  He was a true hero.

Sadly, I’ve already heard people doubting this claim, pointing out that because of what he did in Iraq (160 confirmed kills, the most in U.S. military history), he could not be a ‘good guy’ or a real hero.

Well, for those skeptics who are questioning the man’s character or his exploits during four combat tours in Iraq, I’d invite you to consider the following exchange we had back in May of 2012 (to read the full interview, click here):

SHB: In the book there’s an insightful contradiction.  On one hand you say, “War is hell.”  On the other, there’s a certain “fun” or “pleasure” you derive from being in “the shit.”  Those latter words are probably overstating what you experienced, and perhaps a better way to put it, is what Chris Hedges wrote in his book, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, “The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”

Is war a drug?  Is there part of you that misses it (or is there a withdraw effect)?

CK: I do miss being over there. It is doing something for the greater good. I was surrounded by my buddies who I completely trusted. It is a contradiction, because war is some of the greatest moments of my life, but also some of the worst. Now that my wife made me choose between the family and the job, I feel as if I failed the country. Someone else had to step in my spot. I would not live it down if that person was injured, or caused someone else to be injured.

SHB: Do you ever contemplate re-enlisting?

CK: I have thought very hard about it, but due to the publicity I would be more of a distraction and liability for the guys. Also, I would lose my family.

SHB: In the media, there’s little publicity about the quality of care and support veterans are receiving once they return home from duty; from your standpoint, are veterans getting the treatment they need?

CK: Vets do not get the care they need. I am currently fighting the VA. They always try to downplay everything so they don’t have to pay a dime. One of my buddies was blown up, broke his back, and burned, but the VA is saying he is not entitled to any disability. I am drawing attention to this, and trying to make sure vets are receiving the care they deserve.

SHB: In general, people seem to be fixated on the number of enemy kills you have, does that bother you?  Ideally, how would you like your military career to be remembered?

 CK: People always want to talk about the number of kills. I didn’t even want that in the book, but the publisher did. Having the most kills doesn’t make you the greatest sniper. Carlos Hathcock was the greatest because he used all the precision, stealth, and discipline of a true sniper. He doesn’t have the numbers I do, but he was, and is, the greatest sniper of all time all over the world. The record holder for the world is a Finnish sniper from WWII. He had over 500, but he should have. He was fighting in trench warfare. Numbers don’t mean shit. I would rather be remembered for the number of people I saved, but how do you account for that?

SHB: What else is Craft International up to these days?

CK: Craft is also heavily engaged with the state of Texas doing intelligence to help protect our civilians. Besides all the work, we also take lots of the wounded vets on hunting and fishing retreats. That’s our biggest deal. My view is it is now our duty to serve those that serve us. We want to promote awareness for the vets, and help them out. They are the true heroes of our nation. They have written a blank check up to the value of their life to protect us. This is my main goal in life now.

Based on reports, Chris Kyle died doing what he was most passionate about, serving those who served us.  He was trying to help a veteran convalesce and reacclimatize to civilian life.  There is no nobler cause.

While we may never really know why what happened on Saturday happened, one thing is clear: Chris Kyle was a hero and a patriot.  And there is no disputing that.

When I concluded the interview in May, I wrote the following, which rings truer today than ever before, “Chris Kyle represents the best this country has to offer.  We are forever indebted to him as well as all the brave men and women who served this country.  While we can never pay them back in full, we can start by following in Chris’s footsteps; that is, we can start by serving those who served us.”

With this in mind, I’d like to offer my deepest sympathies and condolences to Kyle’s family.  He leaves behind his wife, Taya, and two children.

I’d also like to send thoughts and prayers to Chad Littlefield’s family, a friend of Kyle’s who died with him on Saturday.

These men will be sorely missed, may they both rest in peace.

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