Chris Kyle, late Navy SEAL and the inspiration for the film American Sniper apparently lied about his military record. According to documents obtained by an online magazine, The Intercept, Chris Kyle claimed to have been awarded nearly twice as many medals than he actually was. Kyle, who was murdered at a Texas shooting range in 2013, publicly claimed to have been awarded two Silver Stars and five Bronze stars for his military service. The documents obtained by the news magazine via an open records request tell a different story. According to the official record, Chris Kyle was awarded only one Silver Star and three Bronze Stars.
A spokesperson for the Navy has confirmed that the documents that The Intercept received and revealed to the public were correct, and that the discrepancy between the awards American Sniper Chris Kyle was awarded and what he claimed to have been awarded is being investigated.
American Sniper, the film, was adapted from Chris Kyle’s autobiography of the same name. The book sold over a million copies and the movie it spawned ended up being the highest-grossing war film in U.S. history. In his autobiography, Chris Kyle directly spoke of the number of awards he claimed to have been awarded in specific terms, so the discrepancy is not the result of ambiguous speech.
“All told, I would end my career as a SEAL with two Silver Stars and five Bronze [Stars], all for valor.”
Ultimately, Chris Kyle spent 10 years in the military and was deployed on four separate occasions. According to reports, before Chris Kyle’s American Sniper was published, he was still on active duty, and he distributed manuscripts of the book to other SEALs. At least one of Kyle’s former commanders (who has asked not to be identified) says he told Chris Kyle that he’d misstated his medal count in his book and that he should change it before publication.
According to The Intercept, Navy SEALs interviewed about Chris Kyle’s metals said that they were afraid to be shunned if they spoke out publicly about the exaggerated metal count in American Sniper. They went on to say that Chris Kyle had been heroic in combat, but his willful inflation of his awards was dishonorable.
The Silver Star medal, a medal that Chris Kyle claimed to have received twice, is the third-highest award for battlefield conduct and is highly prestigious. Since news broke of Kyle’s dishonesty-for-profit, social media users have had a field day.
We're long overdue for a serious look at Chris Kyle's self-made myth in the culture, a la pat tillman— chris hooks (@cd_hooks) May 25, 2016
Chris Kyle’s untruths about his medal count have raised innumerable questions regarding the validity of many of his other claims and has cast a shadow over his credibility in general. Exaggerated claims like Chris Kyle’s are an embarrassing problem for the elite Navy SEALs, they tend to be high-profile when they come to light. Following the death of Osama bin Laden, two SEALs disputed publicly when they both claimed to have fired the fatal shots that ended the life of the most wanted man in the world.
Stolen valor issues are taken seriously in both the military and civilian communities. As Fox News reports, the Stolen Valor Act, which made it a misdemeanor to falsely claim unearned military achievements, was signed into law in 2006. However, the law was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2012 when the court determined that wearing military medals was protected free speech, whether you earned them or not.
Congress, did, however, replace the Stolen Valor Act with a new law that makes it a crime to profit financially by lying about military service. Chris Kyle certainly profited from his lies, given the success of both his autobiography American Sniper and the film that followed.
Chris Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, hasn’t commented publicly regarding the reported medal discrepancy in American Sniper. Taya Kyle was portrayed by Sienna Miller in American Sniper, and since the book and film’s release, she has skyrocketed to fame as the widow of Chris Kyle. As Fox News reports, Taya Kyle recently released a book of her own, American Wife.
Eddie Ray Routh, the ex-Marine that murdered Chris Kyle and one other man was convicted of capital murder in February 2015 and sentenced to life in prison.
What do you think? Should the Navy be answering some questions regarding why Chris Kyle’s exaggeration wasn’t made public immediately? Should the government investigate the case due to the financial gain the Kyle family received as a result what some are calling a “stolen valor” situation? Is it appropriate to be questioning American Sniper Chris Kyle’s integrity now that he’s no longer here to defend himself?
[Photo by John Cantlie/Getty Images]