Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in American military history, whose bestselling memoir American Sniper was adapted into a Hollywood blockbuster of the same name, claimed to have been awarded two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars for valor during his time as a Navy SEAL. This claim, it turns out, was a false one.
Kyle was warned at least once before American Sniper was published that its description of his medal count was wrong, according to one current Navy officer, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the case. As Kyle’s American Sniper manuscript was distributed among SEALs, one of his former commanders, who was still on active duty, advised Kyle that his claim of having two Silver Stars was false, and he should correct it before his book was published.
According to two current Navy officials, inaccurate information about Kyle’s awards is also contained in his separation document, known in the military as a DD214, which usually reflects a veteran’s official service record. Kyle’s DD214 form, which lists two Silver Stars and six Bronze Stars with Valor among his decorations, also differs from the number of Bronze Stars with Valor — five — that Kyle listed in his book.
“SEALs are silent warriors, and I’m a SEAL down to my soul,” Kyle wrote in his book. “If you want to check me out, ask a SEAL.” Reportedly, however, Kyle’s fraudulent record was something of an open secret in the naval special operations community.
“The SEAL leadership was aware of the embellishment, but didn’t want to correct the record because Kyle’s celebrity status reflected well on the command,” one ex-SEAL, who attended the 7,000-person public memorial service for Kyle at Cowboys Stadium, told The Intercept. “Everybody went on a pilgrimage to his funeral at Cowboys Stadium,” this person said, “knowing full well his claims weren’t true.”
Kyle was murdered by Eddie Routh, a former Marine suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, in 2013. The next year, a Minnesota jury awarded former governor Jesse Ventura $1.8 million in damages in his defamation suit against Kyle, who’d written in American Sniper that he’d gotten into a bar fight with the governor in 2006.