Memorial day weekend 2015 is upon us and summer officially begins. While we enjoy the family gatherings, neighborhood picnics and sports events, let’s take time to commemorate all of the men and women who died in military service to the United States of America. Traditionally we do this by visiting cemeteries, attending memorial services or watching parades. This year, in addition, I urge you to honor the dead by acknowledging the living. According to Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s widow, it’s what Chris Kyle (“American Sniper”) would desire; and probably it is what the majority of fallen soldiers would want. Simply thank a veteran for their service or do a small, kind deed for a member of the United States Military. Appreciate the sacrifices they make for you, your family, our country, our liberty and in doing so you are paying the greatest tribute to the brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice, their lives.
Earlier this month, on May 6th at the Valley Forge Military Academy (VFMA), I had the privilege to hear Taya Kyle speak about her book, “American Wife”. She spoke about Chris Kyle the man; we only ‘know’ of him as the warrior. Kyle, called “Tex” by his fellow Navy Seals and later referred to as “The Legend” after earning the moniker of the deadliest sniper in American history, had been shot twice, survived four separate improvised explosive device (IED) detonations and received numerous commendations for heroism and for meritorious service in combat. Taya mentioned that it was Chris’ heart, generosity and kindness that made him special as the husband, father, brother, son, friend and soldier alike. Chris believed that one small act of kindness could mean the world to someone and make an enormous difference. After his active duty ended, Chris spent much of his time helping troubled veterans which aided his own healing. His openness about his own struggles with the after-effects of war was advantageous to everyone Chris counseled. During the meet and greet, Taya was asked what people could do to honor Chris and to carry his legacy forward. She stressed that we all should recognize those who served and are serving by doing one good deed; by saying thank you or placing a ‘dollar store’ American flag in their garden, by paying their breakfast bill, by listening to their stories…. Doing one good deed creates “a ripple effect that is such a powerful thing”. She mentioned that approximately 22 veterans per day commit suicide and among those most are Vietnam veterans. The suicide rate among Vietnam War veterans shows the long-lasting wounds of war, she said. Some Vietnam vets who Chris thanked for their service had tears in their eyes and said they had never been thanked before, she said.
Michael Alexander, Military Recruiting and Engagement Lead for Comcast/NBC Universal, also attended the Taya Kyle meet and greet at VFMA earlier this month. Michael, a retired Navy Chief, had the opportunity to meet with Taya and discuss his role to engage with veteran’s organizations and help veterans get hired at military friendly Comcast/NBC Universal. Comcast/NBC is committed to hiring 10,000 veterans by 2017! In addition Comcast/NBC has a large resource group of thousands of veterans participating in supporting fellow veterans. Conducting one small, thoughtful act is truly “paying it forward”, creating a never ending wave of positive effects, said Taya. Support of this magnitude creates a tsunami of benefits. People may not have all the answers, but they can bring their gifts to the table to help veterans and military families, she said. It is refreshing that companies like Comcast/NBC Universal and individuals like Michael Alexander are dedicated to helping veterans move forward.
In addition to authoring ‘American Wife’, Taya Kyle is a veteran family activist. This is a replica of Chris Kyle’s McMillan .338 Lapua sniper rifle that she signed and auctioned off at the 2015 SHOT Show in Vegas.
At the meet and greet, Taya also signed copies of her book, “American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith and Renewal”’. In this book, Taya shares the private story of the Kyle’s love and faith in the face of war and unimaginable loss. It is a heart-wrenching account and a moving tribute to a man whose true heroism ran even deeper than the legend.
Notice that she includes her favorite bible passage with her signature. She said that it reminds her of the person Chris was and the person she strives to be; just, merciful and humble.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
We seemingly know a lot about Chris Kyle as ‘the Legend’, ‘the American Sniper’, the Navy Seal who stood up to Jesse Ventura, the counselor who was murdered by a brother in arms. I encourage you to read Taya Kyle’s “American Wife” and learn more about Chris Kyle the man and all of the men and women who serve or have served and experienced similar challenges. Although Chris Kyle did not die while in service during his four tours in Iraq, he did die while serving. So, on this Memorial Day weekend, I find it fitting to carry on his legacy as his extraordinary wife Taya Kyle is doing along with other veteran advocates like Michael Alexander. While we give special recognition to those brave men and women in the US military that died for our freedom, we should also reach out with a simple, kind gesture to the veterans and active members of the US military. Good begets good. Love begets love. The ripple effect of one kind deed can be so powerful and truly make a difference. May we be forever grateful and always mindful of the price of our liberty. May we cherish it and nurture those that fight to protect it.