The U.S. Navy has determined there's no evidence Chris Kyle was awarded all the medals he said he received in his bestselling memoir "American Sniper," the Navy Times reported.
The Times said the Navy — in an "unusual move" — reissued DD-214 discharge paperwork to support medals the late SEAL earned, notably finding no record for one of two Silver Stars he said were awarded him in "American Sniper." The Navy's revised tally was one Silver Star and four Bronze Stars, the Times said.
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The Navy’s reissuing of the late Kyle's DD-214 adjusts his confirmed valor awards and continues to raise questions about other elements of Kyle's legendary story, including stories he told after he left the service in 2009. Already a combat hero, the second Silver Star would have made Kyle one of the Navy's most decorated service members in the post-9/11 era, which has drawn heavily on the skill and secrecy of special operations troops.
Navy officials say they found no evidence of any tampering with his original DD-214 and said reissuing the DD214 on June 14 fixed a discrepancy that had come to light. The service, officials say, reissues thousands of discharge papers every year.
“In 2015 alone the Navy corrected more than 3,800 DD-214s,” Navy spokesman Ens. Marc Rockwellpate told the paper.
In “American Sniper,” Kyle and coauthors Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice wrote, “All told, I would end my career as a SEAL with two Silver Stars and five Bronze [Stars], all for valor,” which prompted the review, the Times reported.
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The original DD-214 actually lists six Bronze Stars with 'V,' but they are noted in separate boxes on the form, which is one of many bizarre entries on the document. The new DD-214 uncovers other, more puzzling discrepancies. It removes a Navy Commendation Medal with 'V' and five Armed Services Expeditionary medals, but adds three Iraq Campaign Medals, four Sea Service Deployment ribbons and, fittingly, a Rifle Medal (Expert).
Kyle's co-authors defended his combat valor and blamed the Navy's records-keeping for the discrepancies, which are tougher to resolve after Kyle's 2013 death at the hands of a fellow veteran he had befriended.
“In revising the discharge documents, the Navy is now admitting to sloppy record-keeping, either in 2009 or today,” DeFelice said in an email to the Times. “However, I find it difficult to believe their records have become more complete in the years since the discharge papers were first issued."
“I don't know who or what or why things got fouled up, but the bottom line is this: Chris saved countless lives on the battlefield, was awarded numerous medals for valor, and should have gotten even more,” DeFelice continued.
McEwen told the Times he stands by Kyle.
“I have been presented with no information that in any way questions the valor or medal count of my friend and American hero, Chris Kyle,” McEwen told the Times. “I grow tired of the constant attacks on his reputation, and question the motivation of those making the attacks.”
McEwen suggested a more critical "number" should be used to judge Kyle's service record.
“I have another question to be asked and answered: how many American Warriors are alive today because of Chris Kyle? That is a number I would love to see,” McEwen told the paper. “I can guarantee it is in the 100s. It is far more important than medal counts.”
Kyle's widow, Taya, didn't respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment, the Times said, and a representative of the family's foundation declined to comment on her behalf.
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Experts say it’s rare that the military reviews and reissues DD-214s of its own volition, and that the vast majority of corrections are initiated by service members and veterans.
A verified Silver Star citation for Kyle, contained in Military Times Hall of Valor database, dates to a 2006 deployment to Ramadi, Iraq. It credits him with killing 91 enemy combatants between April and August of that year.
Doug Sterner, an Army veteran who maintains the database as one of the nation’s foremost experts on military decorations and valor, said the Navy's review is more evidence that Kyle earned only one Silver Star. Sterner recently obtained a comprehensive record of the more than 100 Silver Stars with classified citations issued to SEALs since 9/11 and a second Silver Star for Kyle is not among them.
“Chris Kyle, I don't know what to make of the situation,” Sterner told the Times in a phone interview. "Obviously he only got one Silver Star. We know that he did not get a classified award. The bottom line is he served, he got one Silver Star — which is one more than I got — and he was human enough to make the mistake of exaggerating his record.”
One former teammate of Kyle's said that beyond medal counts, the famed sniper was devastating at his job.
"He was pretty damn effective," the former SEAL, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Times. "Leadership kept putting him in the worst situations because they knew he was effective."
The unnamed SEAL also eschewed claims that Kyle killed indiscriminately, the Times said, noting that such actions — consider bureaucracy and surveillance in place — wouldn't tolerate a sniper offing civilians randomly.
Kyle's verified Silver Star citation reads that his "heroic actions, professionalism and incredible sniper skills had tremendous impact in the success of U.S. and Iraqi Forces in routing the insurgency and seizing key areas of the City of Ar Ramadi, the epicenter of Al Qaeda and insurgent activity in Iraq. During 32 sniper overwatch missions, he personally accounted for 91 confirmed enemy fighters killed and dozens more probably killed or wounded," the Times reported.