Ghosts in interview with Navy SEAL sniper’s widow

This past weekend, The Dallas Morning News ran an in-depth story on Taya Kyle, widow of slain Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.

It’s one of those meaty, emotional stories that make Sunday the best day of the week to read the newspaper. (Unfortunately for non-subscribers, the nearly 2,000-word piece is mostly hidden behind a paywall.)

Here’s the compelling lede:

The first Saturday in February began in typical fashion, Taya Kyle recalled, with “kid sports” on the agenda.

Taya and her husband, Chris Kyle — a highly decorated Navy SEAL, veteran of four combat tours and bestselling author of the memoir American Sniper — attended their son’s ball game near their home in Midlothian.

It was one of those ordinary family activities that Taya cherished sharing with Chris after he left military service four years earlier at her urging to spend more time with their son and daughter.

Just a few hours later, Chris Kyle, 38, and a friend, Chad Littlefield, were shot and killed at a gun range southwest of Fort Worth in Erath County while helping a troubled war veteran through target practice as a form of recreational therapy. Eddie Ray Routh, 25, faces charges of capital murder.

In a rare interview at her home, Taya, 38, spoke about trying to hold life together even as she continues to struggle with the death of her husband four months ago on Feb. 2. Though still in mourning, she talked about wanting to carry on her late husband’s legacy, including his work with veterans.

Keep reading (assuming you’re a subscriber), and a surefire religion angle pops up:

In American Sniper, published in 2012, Chris had written about the rocky times in his marriage while he was still on active duty. Admittedly short-tempered, he wrote about frequent arguments with Taya and his struggle with road rage. Taya felt that he considered his SEAL teammates more like his family — that they took precedence over her and the two kids.

In 2008, Chris had to decide whether to re-enlist. In American Sniper, which is interspersed with first-person viewpoints from Taya, she relates how she gave Chris an ultimatum: After four combat tours, he had done enough for his country; his duty was now to his family.

“I told Chris that both our kids needed him, especially, at that particular time, our son. If he wasn’t going to be there, then I would move closer to my father so that at least he would grow up with a strong grandfather very close to him,” she wrote. “Part of it came down to the conflict we’d always had — where were our priorities: God, family, country (my version), or God, country, family (Chris’)?”

God.

Did you catch that reference?

Apparently, the Dallas newspaper did not because the story fails to elaborate at all on what the couple believed about God or what role God played in their lives — or still plays in the widow’s life.

Ghost, anyone?

But the Morning News is not finished with vague reporting on the Kyles’ religious faith.

The story ends this way:

Taya still struggles with grief. “I can only do little bits at a time without feeling it is going to completely consume me,” she said. “And so, in order for me to stay healthy and whole, when I can’t stop it, I let it come. When I can work, I do.”

But she’s not looking for pity, she said. “Part of our job as responsible human beings is to take the hit and keep going. But don’t lose your heart, don’t lose your faith, don’t be cold, but keep trying,” she said.

“That doesn’t mean that life’s not hard as heck to get through it, sometimes. But you got to do it

“You try to get through it with laughter, grace and pride … and a heaping support of friends and family.”

Faith. Grace. Do those sound like words with potential spiritual ramifications?

If so, the Dallas paper totally missed the clues because it never bothers to delve into that angle.

Again, I ask: Ghost, anyone?

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.


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