By Rebecca Rose
Fort Hood Herald
Chris Kyle, who's been called everything from "the devil" to "a legend," visited Killeen last week to sign copies of his memoir, "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History."
The former Navy SEAL's book is a blow-by-blow account of many of his battlefield experiences, detailing not just the realities of life at war, but the strain it can put on marriage and family.
According to information from Hastings Entertainment, which hosted the Jan. 25 book signing at its Killeen location, Kyle recorded the most career sniper kills in U.S. military history from 1999 to 2009. The Pentagon has officially confirmed more than 150 of his kills. The previous American record was 109.
Iraqi insurgents called Kyle "al-Shaitan," or "devil," and placed a bounty on his head, he wrote in the book.
Born in Odessa, Kyle was a young athlete who participated in baseball, football and rodeo activities. He joined the Navy at 24 and knew right away he wanted to become a SEAL, he said. "I wanted to be the best, and SEALs are the best, so that's what I wanted to do."
Kyle completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, one of the military's most grueling programs, in 2000. After earning his trident, the coveted SEAL emblem, he joined SEAL Team 3, deploying to Iraq four times.
Being part of a platoon with other SEAL snipers gave Kyle the desire to pursue that job.
"The point men, the guys who were leading the patrol - the guys going in the door first - were always snipers," said Kyle. "I wanted to be the No. 1 guy. ...That's what I wanted to do."
Kyle made his first long-range kill when a woman brandishing a grenade approached a group of Marines he was assigned to protect.
"I didn't know if I could kill someone," he said. "And in this situation, it wasn't even a man, it was a woman. It really messed with my head."
Kyle said he tensely watched the woman through his scope, describing her every move to his chief over the radio. "He's saying 'You have to take the shot. You have to do it, shoot, shoot,'" he said.
Ultimately, it boiled down to one, simple choice.
"It was either kill a woman," he said, "or watch her kill a bunch of Marines."
After his first kill, Kyle went on to record more than any other American sniper. His longest shot was 2,100 yards, fired from a .338-caliber Lapua Magnum rifle, near Sadr City, Iraq, he said.
Kyle was shot twice during his four deployments and left the Navy in 2009 to spend more time with his family. "American Sniper" was published this month by William Morrow.
"American Sniper" is available at Hastings Bookstores in Killeen, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.