The legacy of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is taking another hit today with a report that he distorted his military record. Kyle, the subject of the film American Sniper, based on his autobiography of the same name, has been a controversial figure and today’s revelations will certainly add to the controversy.
According to a report in The Intercept, Navy documents reveal that Kyle’s claim in his book that he received two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars is inaccurate. Those documents show that the “deadliest sniper in American history” in fact received one Silver Star and three Bronze Stars. The Silver Star is the third highest combat decoration an American soldier can receive.
A current Navy officer, unidentified because he was not authorized to speak about the case, said that Kyle was warned that his claim was inaccurate, and was advised to correct it before his book was published. The officer told The Intercept that when the manuscript of American Sniper was passed around among SEALs, one of Kyle’s former commanders called him on the fact that he had not received two Silver Stars, and told him that the error needed to be addressed. But Kyle stuck to his story.
Matthew Cole and Sheelagh McNeill, authors of the story for The Intercept, explain why the number of medals Kyle received is a big deal:
Current and former Navy SEALs interviewed for this article, who agreed to speak on background because they feared being shunned by their close-knit community, did not dispute Kyle’s heroism in combat, but saw the inflation of his medal count as significant because they consider battlefield embellishments to be dishonorable.
Adding to the issue is the fact that Kyle’s form DD214, the form that a military member receives when he or she is discharged, also has information that doesn’t agree with the other records. That form, which also lists two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars appears to be the basis for Kyle’s claim. So why the difference? Cullen James, a spokesman for the Navy Personnel Command explained that the Navy considers the official personnel file and central office records to be the “authoritative sources for verifying entitlement to decorations and awards.” He said that the DD214 is produced at the post where the member is discharged. While the two are supposed to be cross-checked and verified, “the process involves people and inevitably some errors may occur.”
Another Navy official, speaking off the record, said, “Given [Kyle’s] celebrity, you’d think the Navy would have gone back and fixed the discrepancy. But he’s only got the three Bronze and one Silver Star.”
Chris Kyle remains a controversial figure long after his death, and these records raise more questions. How did the DD214 come to have different information than the other military records? Since it was generated locally, did Kyle have a hand in getting someone to inflate his medal count? Whatever you may think of Chris Kyle and what he did as a SEAL, his colleagues considered him to be a hero. Receiving even one Silver Star is a great honor. Why run the risk of tarnishing that honor by claiming that you received awards that you weren’t actually given?
Unfortunately probably the only person who could provide the answer to that question is Chris Kyle, so we may never know.
Featured image via Imgur