ARLINGTON, Texas — Surrounded by her husband’s military friends, one who offered a glove to wipe away her tears, Taya Kyle stood in front of the flag-draped coffin, her voice trembling as she described to a crowd of thousands what ex-Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle meant to his family, friends and country.
“Chris, there isn’t enough time to tell you everything you mean to me and everything you taught me,” his widow said Monday at Cowboys Stadium during a two-hour memorial service for her husband, a decorated sniper and best-selling author who was slain earlier this month at a gun range in North Texas.
Kyle’s funeral service is scheduled for Tuesday. He will be buried at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin after a 200-mile funeral procession starting in the Dallas area. Drivers along Interstate 35 will not be allowed to pass the procession, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Nearly 7,000 people, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband, attended the service Monday. Dozens of military personnel and others were seated in front of the podium near the Dallas Cowboys’ star at midfield, where Kyle’s coffin was placed.
Taya Kyle described herself as broken but said the family will “put one foot in front of the other” to get through their grief. She told her two children that they will remember Kyle’s silly side, Texas twang and prayers they prayed together.
After her eulogy, country singer Randy Travis sang “Whisper My Name,” which he said Taya Kyle had told him was a meaningful song for the couple, and “Amazing Grace.” At the conclusion of the service, bagpipers played as military personnel carried out the coffin and many in the crowd saluted.
His fellow service members told mourners that Kyle was more than an excellent sniper — he was a devoted family man known for his sense of humor, compassion, selflessness and generosity. Kyle completed four tours of duty in Iraq and wrote the best-selling book “American Sniper.”
Childhood friends recalled his mischievous side, and one said he and Kyle played with BB guns as kids — but Kyle “wasn’t a good shot back then.”
Bo French, an executive at Craft International, the security training company Kyle started after he left the Navy, said Kyle had a passion for helping others. Kyle also founded a nonprofit, FITCO Cares, that provides at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans.
Pictures of Kyle with his family and SEALs were shown on a large screen in the stadium. The back page of the memorial service program included copies of handwritten notes from Kyle’s young kids: “I will miss your heart. I will love you even if you died” from his daughter, and “I miss you a lot. One of the best things that has happened to me is you” from his son.
Iraq War veteran Eddie Ray Routh, 25, has been charged in the Feb. 2 killings of Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a North Texas gun range. Routh is jailed in Erath County on $3 million bond.
Taya Kyle also paid tribute to Littlefield during the service Monday, saying he was the “effortless, no expectations” friend that her husband needed.
Many said before Monday’s service that they didn’t know the 38-year-old Kyle. Air Force Master Sgt. Kevin Phillips said he came from his Fort Worth home to honor “a brother in arms.”
Steven O’Bryan and his wife, Carol, drove more than two hours from their home in Marshall in East Texas because “he’s just an American hero,” Carol O’Bryan said.
FITCO’s director has said the men apparently had been helping Routh work through post-traumatic stress disorder.
Kyle, Littlefield and Routh arrived together at the Rough Creek Lodge shooting range, about 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth, authorities say. Routh later fled in Kyle’s truck and went to his sister’s home.
According to a search warrant, Routh told his sister and brother-in-law that the men “were out shooting target practice and he couldn’t trust them so he killed them before they could kill him.” Routh’s sister called the police, describing her brother as “psychotic.” Routh was arrested after a short police chase.
Routh’s brother-in-law told authorities that Routh had recently been diagnosed with PTSD.
One of Routh’s attorneys, J. Warren St. John, said his client had been released from the Dallas Veterans Affairs hospital against his family’s wishes just two days before the shootings.
Littlefield’s funeral was held Friday in Midlothian. Afterward, Littlefield’s relatives said the outing with Routh was intended to be therapeutic.