Former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb knew Chris Kyle for more than 10 years. Webb found out Saturday through a text message that Kyle had been murdered at a shooting range in Glen Rose, Texas, just before Webb had to give a speech about teamwork to high school basketball students.
Instead of bowing out of the speech to process this difficult information, Webb, the editor-in-chief of SOFREP (the Special Operations Forces Report), went forward with it. And although he has only had a couple days now to process what happened to his friend, a man who has been called “America’s deadliest sniper,” going forward Webb speculates anti-gun advocates will use the shooting of Kyle, 38, and Chad Littlefield, 35, as part of their agenda. But he feels it has no place there.
“My hope is not but my fear is that it does,” Webb said regarding the shooting at Rough Creek Lodge Saturday afternoon entering the current gun control debate. “This time is for his family and for an American hero and it should be left at that.”
We won’t know if President Barack Obama will include the deaths of Kyle and Littlefield in his speech regarding his gun control plan on Monday afternoon in Minneapolis, but Webb said he doesn’t think it is relevant.
“What’s applicable is the PTSD issue,” Webb said.
In fact, it was post-traumatic stress disorder that had Kyle and Littlefield at the shooting range Saturday in the first place. The two men brought 25-year-old Eddie Ray Routh, who has been charged with two counts of capital murder, to the range around 3 p.m. CST on Feb. 2 because he was supposedly having trouble with PTSD.
For many, a shooting range might seem like an unusual place to bring a person suffering with PTSD, but Webb said it is quite the opposite.
“It’s like guys going out and playing catch and talking about issues,” Webb said. “Every Marine is a rifleman. It’s a familiar environment. There’s a level of trust and the walls come down.”
Webb said that although Kyle is well-known for his best-selling book “American Sniper,” many don’t realize Kyle’s personal mission to help veterans.
“This guy had everything. His book was a phenomenal hit. He just sold the rights to the movie. … But he drove a pick-up truck and volunteered his time to help veterans,” Webb said.
Why? Because Kyle had trouble transitioning back after coming home from combat and someone had helped him. Webb too said he had a mentor when he was transitioning — that man was his friend Glen Doherty who was killed in the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya.
“The big issue is transition from military to civilian life,” Webb said. “You get one a one week class and you’re on your a** outside.”
The class Webb is referring to is the Transition Assistance Program.
“It’s not enough. The VA does good things, but it has become a bureaucracy and people are slipping through the cracks.”
Webb noted the paper work and channels necessary to go through to get help from Veterans Assistance being a “f***ing nightmare.”
“It’s bureaucratic and hard to navigate,” Webb continued.
So that’s why Kyle, Webb and other men like them reach out to soldiers going through transition. To help them work through the bureaucracy to get the help they need and to be someone that Webb describes as “in the club” — someone with the same experiences who can truly understand them.
“It’s a trust thing,” Webb said. “You’re not going to put a Marine combat vet in front of some medical psychologist whose biggest fear is their drive to work …it’s why former alcoholics and drug abusers are in that circle talking to people who need help.”
In addition to Kyle showing a continued service to his country by helping veterans, Webb described the man, who is survived by his wife and two children, as a “larger than life Texan.”
The men first met at SEAL Team Three just after 9/11. He was the new guy on the team, but Webb said he had a presence like that of Clint Eastwood in an old Western.
“He was like an old cowboy hero,” Webb continued. “He was soft spoken but meant what he said and said what he meant. With him, you know exactly where he stands.”
Webb met Kyle again when he was a sniper student and Webb the instructor. Later the two became closer friends when they left the Teams and Kyle appeared on SOFREP’s web-based show “Inside the Team Room.”
As for Saturday’s speech, Webb said it was difficult but good.
Although he was stunned when he was informed via a text message from sources he had at a Texas police department about Kyle’s death, he knew he had to deliver one final talk after a day filled with them at the high-school basketball tournament.
“I thought I need to pull it together. I thought, ‘what would Chris want?’” Webb said, noting that the team he spoke with knew nothing of what just happened, nor did he mention it. It produced his most inspirational talk that day.
For those wanting to help Kyle’s family, America’s Mighty Warriors is collecting donations under “Chris Kyle Memorial.” Glenn Beck’s Mercury One will also be collecting donations that will be given to FITCO Cares, a foundation started by Kyle. Webb said his foundation — the Red Circle Foundation — will send donations made in honor of Kyle to the appropriate fund established to help his family.