This is the story of an American born in a town in Texas. He grew up on a farm with a rifle in his hand (he was given his first Springfield at the age of 8). He went to university where a promising career was cut short due to injury. It all seems to be a Hollywood cliché; only in this case it was rodeo, not football. Remember, we are talking about Texas here.
Chief Petty Officer
08/04/1974 - 02/02/2013
Years of service: 1999-2009
Branch of service: US Navy
Unit: Sniper of "Charlie" Squad, SEAL Team 3
Decorations: Silver Star Medal (x2), Bronze Star Medal (x5), Navy and Marine Corps
Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (x2)
Deployments: Iraq (four deployments)
Nicknames: "Shaitan Al-Ramadi" ("The Satan of Ramadi") or "Legend"
Like many patriotic Americans, he wanted to serve his country and tried to enlist in the Navy to become a SEAL; but the injury he had suffered in his youth prevented him. Nonetheless, the terrorist attacks on 11 September changed things.
A second chance
It was the very recruiters that had rejected him who called him up. He welcomed the chance to prove himself and see if he could overcome his own limits. He passed the course and was admitted into the SEALs where he specialized as a sniper. He was deployed in Iraq and performed the typical Hollywood exploits.
He managed to kill an insurgent at more than 2100 meters distance - a mixture of preparation and luck as he himself acknowledged. He took down more than 40 insurgents in one day during the second Battle of Falluja, the bloodiest in the Iraq War.
Also known as ...
All this made his comrades call him "Legend" with a touch of irony and envy, mixed in equal parts. His enemies called him "Shaitan Al-Ramadi" ("The Satan of Ramadi") and offered a reward of $180,000 for his head. That's popularity for you!
After four deployments, two Silver Stars and five Bronze Medals (five for bravery), with a wife and two children waiting at home, he is faced with having to make a tough decision: sign up again and complete the years of service needed to qualify for his pension, or leave the army and resume his role at the head of his family, whom he had neglected for many years.
Did you know ...
Here are some facts that will come in handy when you are showing off your knowledge about the film.
- David O. Russell (director, Three Kings) volunteered to direct the project, but ended up stepping down. Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan) was then given the chance to direct the film; however, he also decided to refuse the project because, according to him, the budget was too low. Thus, it fell into the hands of Clint Eastwood.
- Although filming took place largely in the United States, some of the scenes were filmed in Morocco, just like Black Hawk Down. Coincidence?
- Bradley Cooper was not going to play Chris Kyle; that role was going to be for Chris Pratt. He was only going to produce the film. However, the more he got into the project, the more admiration he felt for the Navy SEAL. As a result, he played the role of Kyle himself.
- To become Kyle, Cooper had to lift weights and consume 6000 calories, risking his health to make the brutal transformation into the character.
- One of the details that has not been spared criticism is a scene in which Kyle is holding his baby child, where a doll was clearly used instead of a baby. It was a production problem that ended up going viral on Twitter accounts as the "American Sniper Baby".
Over and out
In the end, he chose his family and left his fellows in SEAL Team 3 with much regret. He set up a school to pass on his experience and knowledge to other snipers who needed it. Unfortunately, it was there where he eventually died at age of 39 at the hands of a 20-year-old ex-Marine, for reasons as yet unknown.
Kyle became a living legend by clocking up some 255 dead insurgents, but the Pentagon only credits him with 160 confirmed deaths, still making him the deadliest US sniper. Confirming a death requires a lot of documentation to be completed, evidence to be submitted, as well as witnesses. In combat situations, that can sometimes be very complicated.