Taya Kyle, an author and speaker whose husband, Navy SEAL and decorated sniper Chris Kyle, was gunned down in 2013 by a former Marine who suffered from PTSD, spoke before about 400 people inside an auditorium at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center on Thursday evening.
Kyle, who released her book American Spirit: Profiles in Resilience, Courage and Faith in April, delivered reflections on faith and its power to help her and others to persevere through grief and hardship.
In 2012, her late husband released an autobiography, American Sniper, which spent more than 35 weeks atop The New York Times’ bestseller list. It was adapted into a Clint Eastwood-directed movie in 2014; she said Thursday that the film’s rough draft was turned in the day before he was killed.
Born in Odessa, Chris Kyle served four tours in the Iraq War. After being honorably discharged from the Navy in 2009, Chris, Taya and their two children moved to Midlothian.
He was killed at age 38; his memorial service was held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington to accommodate the number of mourners.
Taya Kyle described losing her husband as “an amputation” and said she is often asked about how to make meaning of loss and about forgiveness.
“One of the questions that I get asked a lot is sort of explaining why bad things happen to good people,” said Kyle, 44. “I think the truth is that bad things happen to all people — we just don’t know it. We don’t know the inside of what’s going on.
“And the people we might classify as bad people typically have had a lot of bad things happen in their lives, too, before they got to that point,” Kyle continued. “Maybe nobody showed up for them. I don’t believe in excuses, personally; I think we’re all accountable for our own actions. But I notice the vast difference when people do show up for others — when in your pain and in your tragedy, somebody else has the courage to just show up.”
Warren Finch, director of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, introduced Kyle on stage and asked her several questions from audience members. One of his questions was to ask her to reflect on forgiveness. Her husband’s killer was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
“I don’t know so much about forgiveness with that guy, because that’s a hard one for me to say,” she said, adding she believes he deserves to be in prison for the rest of his life. “But I can say that he doesn’t take up any space in my mind.”
“Maybe that’s a kind of forgiveness,” she added. “I’ve decided not to hate, and I’ve decided not to carry anger or bitterness or anything else. But other people I have been able to forgive because you’re human.”
After the talk, Finch said that Kyle’s message was one of faith and perseverance in the face of hardship and grief.
“Hers is a story of resilience,” Finch said. “Hers is a story of faith, and it is moving that she has taken something that is terrible and turned it into good.”
Brazos County District 2 Justice of the Peace Terrence Nunn and his wife, Stacey, were among the hundreds in attendance at Kyle’s talk.
“In today’s world, the way the political environment is and the way things are going now, it’s uplifting to see somebody who is strong in their faith and who’s leaning on their faith and sharing that faith with others,” Nunn said. “She’s outspoken about it.”