People across the country have been drawn in to the story of the life of Chris Kyle, a United States Navy Seal veteran and sniper who served four tours in Iraq. The numbers vary, but he was credited as the top sniper during his service, a claim which the Pentagon and the U.S. Special Operations Commands have not challenged.
Kyle was awarded with one Silver Star Medal, four Bronze Star Medals, a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and many other unit and personal awards and was honorably discharged in 2009. Three years later he wrote his best-selling novel American Sniper, which detailed his life story and was turned into the 2014 film of the same title, which left a huge impact on audiences.
But Kyle never got the chance to see the finished film.
On February 2, 2013, Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, went out to a shooting range with Marine Corp Veteran Eddie Ray Routh, reportedly with the intent to help Routh with his post-traumatic stress disorder. But in a tragic turn of events, Routh shot and killed both Kyle and Littlefield. He was tried and found guilty of killing both men and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Following Kyle's death, his hometown of Odessa, Texas, decided to honor him in a big way. They revealed plans to create a memorial plaza and statue, which took a year to complete and was unveiled on Thursday (July 28).
The Odessa Chamber of Commerce states that the 2,800-square-foot plaza is made of granite and Texas limestone, and is located next to the Veteran's Clinic at the Medical Center Hospital in the city. A large statue of Kyle, designed by Vic Payne, shows him holding a sniper in one hand and an American flag in the other, and serves as the centerpiece of three linked plazas.
Texas and American flags surround the plazas, with two of the three featuring "unmentioned team members and all of those other unnamed SEALS that gave their lives for our country." Kelly D. Cook, who is part of the team that helped design the plaza, wrote that it's meant to represent so much more than Kyle:
"It is not meant to be a tourist destination. The memorial is for those who are serving, those who have served, those who never came home, their friends, and their families. We think Chris would have liked that."
Kyle's wife, Taya, was present for the unveiling, and was also consulted by Payne about the statue designed in her husband's likeness.