American Sniper tells the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and is based on his autobiographical memoir, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. However, some people are questioning the authenticity of several events in Kyle’s book, and to top it off, the movie has some differences from the book. Here’s the true story of Chris Kyle.
Chris (pictured at left with his wife, Taya) was born in Odessa, Texas in 1974. His mother was a Sunday School teacher and his father was a deacon. Chris was given his first rifle at age eight—a bolt action .30-06 Springfield rifle. He grew up playing sports and working on a ranch. For a time he was a professional bronco rodeo rider, but at the age of 24 he injured his arm when he was thrown. He dropped out of his senior year of college in order to join the Navy.
Although initially rejected because of his injuries, Chris joined the Navy SEALs in 1999. It was at about this time that he met his wife, Taya. They had a whirlwind romance and married quickly because of his impending deployment during the Iraq war.
Chris’ first kill as a sniper was a woman in Iraq who pulled out a grenade in the streets of Fallujah. His longest distance confirmed kill was in 2008 from 2,100 yards away when Chris shot an insurgent who was preparing to fire a rocket-propelled grenade. He was called “Legend” by comrades, and Al-Shaitan Ramadi (The Devil of Ramadi) by Iraqi forces.
When he was discharged in 2009, as he promised Taya, he did not re-enlist. Instead, he worked on his autobiography. During his time at home, Chris helped veteran soldiers dealing with rejoining society and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Chris formed a non-profit company called CRAFT INTERNATIONAL, which helps supply injured and retired veterans with gym equipment and workshops. He also owned a gun range in Texas for them to practice at and to give them a chance talk to other veterans. One day in 2013, when bringing in a new retiree named Eddie Ray Routh to his gun range, Chris and a friend Chad Littlefield were shot and killed by Routh, who is believed to have been suffering from PTSD.
In his autobiography, Chris was a man who was passionate about the army, but also dealt with fame and an ego. Since it was published, articles have appeared in the media asking if the movie is truly based on the life of Chris Kyle, or if the script had been changed to omit some of the details.
Terrence McCoy wrote an article in The Washington Post after interviewing Michael J. Mooney, a journalist who wrote Life and Legend of Chris Kyle: American Sniper, Navy SEAL. He uncovered that Kyle was coping with his PTSD and fabricated stories of killing two carjackers who attacked him, of which no evidence or case file was found. McCoy also reported that Kyle used to tell stories of killing looters during the Hurricane Katrina Disaster, in addition to using his pent up anger and stress to start bar fights. However, none of that is believed to be true.
Also, former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura launched a defamation lawsuit against Kyle after the former Navy SEAL wrote that he’d punched someone called “Scruff Face” in a bar fight in 2006 because this person said he hated America and that the SEALS “deserve to lose a few” in the war. He later identified Ventura as being Scruff Face, but Ventura denied the entire incident and won the lawsuit.