The soon-to-appear Chris Kyle Plaza will honor the SEAL Community and the hero who was book and film titled American Sniper.
By Julie Anderson
Christopher Scott Kyle
April 8, 1974- February 2, 2013
As the nation honors its 22 million veterans on Nov. 11, West Texans continue to work toward a goal that, as put by the widow of veteran Chris Kyle, “represents what Chris and so many of our veterans stand for in service to our country and each other on and off the battlefield.”
Taya Kyle, the wife of slain “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, recently announced her official support of the Chris Kyle Memorial Plaza, according to a release from the Odessa Chamber of Commerce. Project organizers are currently raising funds for the 2,800-square-foot plaza that will be located adjacent to the West Texas Veteran Affairs Outpatient Clinic on the property of Medical Center Hospital on State Highway 191 between Midland and Odessa. As of press time, close to half of the $400,000 goal had been raised.
“I anticipate that from its proposed opening in spring 2016, we will see many proud Americans visiting the Chris Kyle Memorial to pay their respects to not just Chris, but all veterans,” Taya Kyle shared. “Every day Chris was alive he had the spirit of Texas and America coursing through his veins. This project will have not only that Texas spirit, but Chris’s spirit entrenched in it.”
Chris Kyle was born in Odessa and spent about two-and-a-half years living in the area while his father worked for Southwestern Bell.
Kyle was a U.S. Navy Seal and is considered the deadliest sniper in U.S. history. Navy SEALs are a unique breed of warrior who conduct special operations in any environment, but who are uniquely trained and equipped to operate from, around, and in maritime areas. (http://www.sealswcc.com/seal-default.html) SEALs take their name from the environments in which they are trained to operate: sea, air and land. Their small, highly trained teams usually work quietly at night conducting some of the nation’s most important missions. SEALs are constantly deployed throughout the world to protect national interests.
As a Navy SEAL, Kyle served four tours in the Iraq War and was awarded several commendations for acts of heroism and meritorious service in combat, including two Silver Star Medals, five Bronze Star Medals, one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, along with other numerous unit and personal awards. He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 2009 and wrote a bestselling autobiography, American Sniper, which was published in 2012. The book described Kyle’s military career, ensuing struggles, and his work with fellow veterans. Kyle, age 38, and friend Chad Littlefield, age 35, were tragically killed in February 2013 by a troubled veteran Littlefield and Kyle were trying to help.
Kyle’s story was made into an Academy Award-winning movie starring Bradley Cooper and directed by Clint Eastwood.
A Memorial in the Making
“I think that after watching the movie American Sniper, many if not all of us were moved by the personal sacrifice made by Chris Kyle and his fellow soldiers,” shared former PBPA Chairman Kirk Edwards, CEO of Latigo Petroleum. Upon learning Kyle was born in Edwards’ hometown of Odessa, Edwards was inspired “to go and do something for his family to remember him and what he did for our country.”
Edwards’ initial idea focused on a statue of Chris Kyle.
“The scope of the project has grown into a beautiful memorial area that will not only honor Chris, but other soldiers as well,” said Edwards. While the statue was slated for completion on Veterans Day of this year, the expanded scope resulted in a new completion date of spring 2016.
Edward shared his initial memorial vision with several others, including PBPA members Bubba Saulsbury of Saulsbury Industries, Ted Hogan of Light Tower Rentals, and Dick Gillham of JH Marks Crane and Rigging.
“Chris Kyle is a true American hero,” Hogan declared. “What our young people need today are true heroes to look up to. Chris Kyle, with his service to the United States of America and his dedication to other service men and women, is truly a great example for our youth. Chris was born in Odessa, so it is very appropriate for him to be honored here by this memorial.”
Hogan, Edwards, Gillham, and Saulsbury were appointed to a planning committee by Odessa Chamber of Commerce then-Chairman Larry Lee. Odessa Chamber CEO Mike George and Odessa American Publisher Pat Canty were also appointed to the chamber committee, which was named the Chris Kyle Task Force. The group is using the non-profit Odessa Community Foundation Inc. (OCF), a subsidiary of the Odessa chamber, to accept donations for the project.
After raising some $75,000, the foundation contracted sculptor Vic Payne, who has 35 years of experience as a sculptor and has work in the Raymond James Financial Institute Collection, The Booth Western Art Museum, and the Pearce Civil War and Western Museum.
“Chris Kyle’s family has visited with Payne, and we are very grateful to have the family’s support and input,” Edwards stated.
Ownership of the statue has been transferred to the Ector County Hospital District (ECHD) through a resolution and donation agreement. ECHD will also be in charge of upkeep and maintenance of the memorial. Any funds raised in excess of the $400,000 will be donated to the Medical Center Health System Foundation to be used for veteran services, which is also included in the agreement between OCF and ECHD, Edwards confirmed.
“The OCF began fundraising a few weeks ago for the Chris Kyle Memorial Plaza,” reported George. “Funds are approaching $200,000 of the estimated $400,000 needed to complete the project. It is anticipated that the unveiling and dedication ceremony will be in March 2016.
“The committee is very pleased with the positive reception we have received,” George continued.
The 2,800-square-foot Chris Kyle Memorial Plaza will be composed of granite and Texas limestone. The Chris Kyle Task Force offered the following description of the project:
Our limited understanding of Chris Kyle and the world of the Navy SEALS is one of teamwork and humbleness. While this monument will be centered around honoring Chris, when you look at the plans for the overall site, you will see that it initially appears as one open plaza with the sculpture of Chris in the center. However, upon careful inspection, you will see that it will actually be three plazas, interlinked, with the sculpture of Chris in the central plaza.
Chris will be flanked on either side by individual plazas that represent his unmentioned team members and all of those other unnamed SEALS that gave their lives for their country. The limestone paving will be cut from a quarry near Chris’ birthplace of Odessa. The paving will be inlaid with three tridents, the weapon of the mythical Greek god of the oceans, Neptune, and one of the symbols of the SEAL community. The three tridents will be in remembrance of Chris and the other unknown SEALS. Chris served with SEAL Team 3.
The plaza will feature low memorial walls of polished black granite that will double as seating spaces for those wanting to pause and contemplate. The low walls will have a slightly angled face so that the visitors can not only see the engravings of Chris’ medals, tours of duty, and accomplishments—but can also catch a glimpse of their own face, reflecting in the mirrored granite.
The intention is to help the visitors understand how the actions of Chris, the SEAL community, and the overall military also reflect upon those of us at home.
The site will also feature the Texas and United States flags, which will be automatically raised and lowered every day at sunrise or sunset. The plaza will be handicap accessible with nearby parking, and will be shaded by Texas live oak trees from the ranch of George W. Bush.
Serving Those Who Served Us
After his service to his country, Kyle was dedicated to helping fellow American veterans integrate back into society, Hogan shared.
“He once said, ‘It’s our duty to serve those who served us,’ ” Hogan recalled. “Unfortunately this very action led to his early death.
“His mother and father, Wayne and Deby Kyle, have dedicated their lives to carry on the foundation that Chris started, the American Valor Foundation,” Hogan offered. “They support our efforts to honor Chris with this memorial and are working closely with our sculptor, Victor Payne, to make the statue as realistic as possible. As any parent would, they want Chris to be remembered as he really was.”
How You Can Help
Companies in the Permian Basin are well known for their support of active and former military personnel, said PBPA Chairman Danny Campbell, president of Henry Resources.
“Whether by supporting our troops’ needs while in the service, or providing opportunities in the workforce when our soldiers come home, the people of the Permian Basin including the members of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association are humbled by the sacrifices of these brave men and women for our freedom,” Campbell continued. “The PBPA is honored to do what we can to show our support.”
The PBPA has distributed information to its membership informing them of the project and the opportunity to donate.
Project organizers have now launched a national campaign to help fund the plaza. If you would like to make a tax deductible donation, go to the following link: odessachamber.com/chris-kyle-memorial/.
You may donate directly online or print out the provided form and mail along with your donation to:
The Odessa Community Foundation, Inc.
c/o The Odessa Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 3626
Odessa, Texas 79760
The OCF is a 501 (c) (3) corporation.
“Chris Kyle was not only a decorated hero, but he was one of our own having been born in Odessa, Texas,” Campbell stated. “The memorial will be an outstanding tribute to Chris Kyle and the other Navy SEALS and military personal who have served our country with pride and honor.”
Julie Anderson, based in Odessa, is editor of County Progress magazine and is well known to many readers of PBOG as the former editor of this magazine.