Taya Kyle is ready to share her emotional journey after her husband, Chris Kyle of American Sniper fame, and his friend, Chad Littlefield, were shot and killed by Eddie Ray Routh, who was just found guilty of the murders and sentenced to life in prison.
In her new book American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith and Renewal, the 40-year-old mother of two reveals how she was able to pick up the pieces following his 2013 murder.
Read an exclusive excerpt from the book in which Taya remembers the last day she would ever have with her husband.
PREFACE: THE LONGEST DAY
When life brings you to your knees, you are in the perfect position to pray.
FEBRUARY 2, 2013
Saturday, and like a lot of Saturdays, we were going in a dozen different directions. But as always, we began the day together.
First up was a rec basketball game at the local church gym. Both of our children, Bubba and Angel, were on the team. My husband Chris and I made it a point of attending the games together. Not only were we were a vital part of the team’s cheering section, but the hour or two in the gym let us reconnect with our friends, maintaining the neighborly ties that are so important in a small town. It was always a fun time.
We took different vehicles—Chris his truck, me the family SUV—because we had to split up after the game. I was taking the kids to friends' and then later the mall; Chris was going shooting at a range he'd helped design.
He was bringing a friend, and another man he knew only as a veteran in need.
A few days before, a woman had approached my husband while he was dropping the kids off at school. He didn't know her, but like nearly everyone in the community, she knew who he was: Chris Kyle, American Sniper, former SEAL, war hero, and freshly minted celebrity. The story of his life had been a bestseller for over a year; Hollywood planned a major motion picture starring Bradley Cooper, the hottest actor in America. Since the book's publication in January 2012, Chris had been on TV numerous times, starred in a reality series, and spoken at events across the country. His easygoing smile and matter-of-fact personality attracted admirers near and far.
He also had a warm heart and a genuine reputation for helping people, especially veterans and others in need in our community. And it was that reputation that brought the woman to Chris. She told him her son was just back from Iraq and having a little trouble getting the help he needed from the VA and fitting into civilian life. She asked if he might be able to talk to him.
Chris didn't know the young man, nor was he told the vast depth of his problems: fitting in was the least of them. But as he nearly always did, Chris told her he'd see what he could do. Chris and I talked about where they might go. He settled on Rough Creek Lodge, a serene and peaceful place where they wouldn't be bothered. He recruited our dear friend and neighbor, Chad Littlefield, to come with them.
That was today. It was a long drive, perhaps an hour and a half each way. Chris believed the time in the truck would give them a chance to get to know each other. Once the young man was comfortable, Chris would recommend people who might help him, assuming he thought that necessary. For many veterans coming home from a war zone, just being able to share the displacement they felt was enough to set them onto a normal course.
The young man's name was Eddie Routh. He had been a Marine, and he had been deployed, though apparently he hadn’t seen combat. But his troubles started before that. Routh had held his girlfriend and a friend of hers at knifepoint and had a history of problems including drug abuse. Whether he was suffering from PTSD or not, his problems went far beyond that, in a different and far more lethal direction. He had threatened to kill his family and himself, been in and out of mental institutions, and generally acted antisocial— important facts that neither Chris nor I knew that morning.
The game went well. I don’t remember the score, but I know we both cheered a lot. Chris's hearty laugh filled the auditorium; it was a day of great if simple joy.
Chris and I had been married now over a decade, and while it may sound like a cliché, our love had grown deeper over time. The attraction we'd both felt at our very first meeting had deepened into something truly beautiful. Like all marriages, we'd had our share of ups and downs, heartache and triumph, but lately we’d hit a kind of glorious plateau. We were spending more time together and had found a rhythm that gave us both comfort and shelter, even as our world had expanded and changed.
Chris left when the game ended, so he could get ready for the rest of the day. I gathered the kids and a friend, then drove Bubba to a buddy's house, where the two boys planned to spend most of the day. I was taking Angel and one of her friends to the mall, but the girls needed the bathroom, so we stopped back at the house before continuing.
Chris was packing his rifles and gear in his truck, a tricked-out black Ford 350 pickup. It was his pride and joy.
We passed in the hall.
"Does this guy know it's okay to talk in front of Chad, even though he wasn’t military?" I asked.
While he wasn’t a veteran, our friend Chad Littlefield was the sort of man who was great at listening. He was as easygoing as Chris, and if anything even more laid-back.
"Yeah," said Chris. He'd already talked to Routh on the phone, mentioning that Chad was coming.
Running a little late and preoccupied, Chris continued packing the truck. Typically at the range, they'd shoot a few different rifles and pistols at different distances. For people who grew up hunting, especially war veterans, shooting often settled the mind. It was something that required full concentration, and therefore took you away from your troubles, at least for a short time.
"Is he coming here?" I asked Chris.
"Hell no," he said. "I wouldn't give anybody our address. I have to go pick him up."
I went to look after the kids. Then suddenly we were ready to leave. I looked around for Chris to say good-bye but couldn't find him; finally I went back into the house and literally ran into him.
"Hey!" I said. "I was looking for you!"
"I was looking for you!" he said.
"I just wanted to say good-bye." I hugged him.
"I love you."
"I love you, too," he said.
I gave him a quick kiss and a hug—something we tried to always do when we left the house—and went out to the SUV to take the girls to the mall.
That was the last time I saw my husband, my best friend, my hero, alive.
Copyright Taya Kyle, 2015. Courtesy of William Morrow. To buy a copy of American Wife, click here.