Cowboys Stadium funeral filled with uniforms of many colors

Posted Monday, Feb. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Procession today

Chris Kyle will be buried in Texas State Cemetery, which is not open to everyone. Kyle's burial was approved by three-person cemetery committee because of his contributions to military affairs and to writing, a cemetery spokesman said.

The hearse and escorts are scheduled to pull out at 8 a.m. from the parking lot of the Midlothian schools stadium, 1800 S. 14th St.

Route: U.S. 287 to Interstate 35E to Austin.

Military personnel, first responders and the Patriot Guard Riders will escort the procession. Other motorists should expect delays, a Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman said.

People stopping to watch the procession are urged to park safely on the shoulders of frontage roads and overpasses and not park on the highway or interstate.

Weather will be a consideration. The forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of rain through noon in North Texas. Chances of rain are 40 percent before noon in Austin.

Graveside service: private

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ARLINGTON -- Uniformed personnel, police and military, stood with civilians Monday at Cowboys Stadium to honor Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL sniper who was slain Feb. 2.

Police and firefighters from all over Texas were in blue.

State troopers were in tan, and at least a dozen Texas Rangers were in white hats and starched white shirts.

An Army Special Forces sergeant was in green; Marines were in dress blue.

Flag-toting motorcycle riders wore their leathers, and there was a girl in her blue school uniform.

And there were lots of Navy personnel, many of them wearing the Special Warfare insignia -- the SEAL Trident.

Speakers recounted how Kyle provided cover fire from exposed positions in faraway places such as Fallujah and Ramadi. But more than one stressed that Kyle was more legendary as son, father and husband.

Kyle's wife, Taya, drove that point home in her tearful address.

"I stand before you a broken woman," she said, "but always a wife of a warrior, on and off the battlefield. Chris Kyle was 'all in' no matter what he did in life.

"Chris, God worked through you to make me the woman I'm supposed to be. He chose well. Thank you for loving me."

Kyle, 38, and a friend, Chad Littlefield, 35, both of Midlothian, were shot to death Feb. 2 at the Rough Creek Lodge near Glen Rose. They were there with former Marine Eddie Routh, whom Kyle and Littlefield were hosting for an afternoon of target shooting. Routh's family said he has post-traumatic stress disorder, and Kyle was trying to help him.

Routh was arrested driving Kyle's pickup. He remains in the Erath County Jail facing a capital murder charge.

Outside the stadium, Lance Burt of San Antonio said he and Kyle were friends, and they worked together to providing fishing and hunting opportunities for fellow veterans. Burt, a former Army Ranger, and 10 members of his club, Patriotic Defenders, rode their motorcycles from San Antonio to attend the memorial.

"There's no better cure than getting these guys outdoors and thinking about having fun again," Burt said. "But after four tours in that kitty box, [Kyle] comes home and another vet kills him.

"He was just a dude who did everything for everybody, except himself."

There were four high school students from the Forrestal Squadron of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps. Derek Dickerson of Mesquite said he was asked to write Kyle and invite him to speak before the cadets.

"It's just a shame," he said. ""Now I just want to show my respect."

He was joined by fellow cadets Brendan Gould of Hurst, Richard Rodriguez of Grand Prairie and Terrell Mashek of Keller.

Gould said he came to admire Kyle while reading Kyle's memoir, American Sniper.

"To pay respect, in a uniform that is similar to what he would have worn, is really profound for me," he said.

At the beginning of the service, the crowd entered the stadium slowly with the hymn Mansions of the Lord playing on the P.A. system and images of Chris Kyle on the jumbo screen.

Serenaded by Scottish bagpipes, Kyle's casket was placed on the blue star on the 50-yard line.

Dozens of Navy SEALS, past and present, stood as the SEAL creed was read.

One by one, boyhood friends and fellow military members paid tribute to Kyle.

"At home, he wasn't Superman. He was just a dad," one of Kyle's high school friends said. Some of the speakers were not identified in the program.

At the close, country star Randy Travis sang Whisper My Name and then led the crowd in Amazing Grace.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin posted on her Facebook page that she and her husband, Todd, were planning to attend.

"I find it sad to see that flags aren't flying at half staff for this American hero," Palin wrote on the page.

The event attracted a small group of protesters who were confined to the northeast side of the stadium. They held up posters proclaiming that the deaths of military personnel are God's retribution for homosexuality in the United States. Similar statements were made a week ago in a news release from the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. The group has gained nationwide attention for its protests, and the Feb. 5 press release specifically mentioned Kyle. But it was not clear Monday whether the people at the stadium were affiliated with the Westboro church.

They were met briefly by a group of "counter-protesters," said Tiara Ellis Richard, an Arlington police spokeswoman.

"By small, I mean a handful of each who were there for maybe 20 minutes," Richard said. "Everyone was able to express their free speech and keep it moving."

After the service, Greg Harper of Burleson said he had read Kyle's book, and the outpouring of community support attested to the former SEAL's character.

"Hopefully, his family's seeing the community coming out for him will help with their healing," Harper said. "People serve in the military, but they don't get the respect they deserve and neither do their families."

Kyle's family had a private funeral earlier. He will be buried today in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. The Patriot Guard Riders have said they will escort the hearse from Midlothian to Austin.

Bill Miller, 817-390-7684

Twitter: @Bill_MillerST

Bill Miller, 817-390-7684; Twitter: @Bill_MillerST

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