The mood was somber at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Monday as thousands gathered to honor slain Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle who was shot to death at a Texas shooting range earlier this month. Photos of Kyle taken throughout his life flashed on the stadium's giant Jumbotron as loved ones, as well as complete strangers whose lives he touched, remembered his legacy.
While millions of Americans know him as the deadliest sniper in U.S. history, others that knew Kyle closely spoke about the charitable work he did off the battlefield to help struggling veterans and his role as a caring, loving father and husband. It wasn't his confirmed kills tally that he wanted to be remembered for. The "American Sniper" author said he wanted to be remembered as someone who gave everything he had to help others.
A cross, helmet, vest, boots and a sniper rifle were flanked by flowers on the stage, placed right behind the Cowboy star.
Though Kyle's wife, Taya, was one of the last people to speak at the memorial service, her message was arguably the most powerful and by far the most emotional.
"I stand before you a broken woman, but I am now and always will be the wife of a man who is a warrior, both on and off the battlefield," she said, her voice dripping with emotion. "Some people along the way have told Chris that through it all, he was lucky I stayed with him… but I'm the one who is literally in every sense of the word blessed that Chris stayed with me."
"Thank you Chris. Thank you for loving me -- all of me," Taya went on, tears now running down her face.
She talked about how she will miss her kids running into their dad's arms.
"I hope you know with all your hearts that being your dad was the highlight of your dad's life," Taya said to her children. "I honestly don't remember a night where daddy and I would tuck you in and wouldn't say, 'man we are so blessed to have you two kids.'"
"I love you Chris. I love you. I love you," she concluded.
Printed on the back of the memorial service program were heartbreaking notes from his two young children. They wrote:
I love you Dad. You are the best dad ever. I never wanted you to die. I will miss your heart. I will love you even if you died. Love you forever,
I miss you a lot. One of the best things that has happened to me is you. I love you dad. I always will.
There were, of course, tears, but there were also some laughs as his family, friends and fellow Navy SEALs shared several of the fond memories they shared with Kyle.
The memorial service also saw a few surprise appearances, including country music star Joe Nichols who performed his hit song "The Impossible." Listen to the song below:
"I was Chris Kyle's friend. I think that's the title we would wear most proudly," one man said during the memorial service, who argued his name "wasn't important."
"For Chris, the impossible was just another target," he added.
"If you didn't know Chris, under his tough guy exterior he was a kind, caring, humble and selfless man," Kyle's childhood best friend said. "He was also a proud husband and father."
"Chris was also a man of character, he always stood up for what he believed in and never backed down," he added before succumbing to emotion. "I know I will have to what until my name is called until I see him again."
Also in attendance on Monday was former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. She posted the following message on her Facebook page on Monday morning:
Todd and I are in Dallas today to attend Chris Kyle’s memorial and funeral service. I find it sad to see that flags aren’t flying at half staff for this American hero. We’re surrounded today by American patriots here in Texas – by Chris’ fellow veterans and active duty warriors. In honor of them, I hope our commander in chief pays his respects in some gesture of condolence for their comrade in arms who sacrificed so much to keep him and all of us safe.
We may never know to what extent Chris kept us free or how many lives he saved by his brave actions in the line of fire. But his fellow warriors know how important he was. My son Track couldn’t meet Chris when Todd and I first met him because Track was deployed to Iraq. Then when we got to know Chris even better, our son was deployed in Afghanistan. We’ve met a lot of people in recent years, and Track has been privileged to meet them as well. But he said about Chris, “Mom, he’s the ONE person in the entire world I would be star-struck to meet. He’s it.”
God bless this great warrior. Let us keep his wife and children in our prayers, and may we never forget him or his sacrifice.
Ending the service, country music artist Randy Travis sang "Amazing Grace" as the stadium sang along.
Recipient of two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars With Valor, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals and one Navy and Marine Corps commendation, Kyle served four tours of duty in Iraq where he earned the nickname “the Devil of Ramadi” from insurgents for his deadly accuracy.
Kyle will be buried at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin after a 200-mile funeral procession starting in the Dallas area Tuesday morning.
Littlefield's funeral was held Friday in Midlothian, where he and Kyle were neighbors. After the funeral, Littlefield's relatives said the men's outing with Routh was intended to be therapeutic.
To donate by mail, make checks payable to Mercury one but in the memo field please write “Chris Kyle Fund.”
PO Box 140489
Irving, TX 75014
As of Monday afternoon, Beck’s charity had raised nearly $545,000.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.