Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting Taya Kyle, the wife of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, who was in Indianapolis promoting her new book, American Wife and charities started by her late Navy SEAL husband, Chris.
In my book, Taya, like many wives and family members of deployed American Warriors are heroes too. If you read Chris’s book or have seen the movie, American Sniper, you know that his four deployments to Iraq put a serious strain on his relationship with his family. It took a special woman to deal with the burden of being both mommy and daddy during her husband’s deployments, not to mention the problems associated with his service and transition to civilian life.
I shared with Taya that it took me nearly a half-century before I truly understood the effect on my own family that my service in Vietnam caused. Compounding that was the PTSD, which has never gone away, and decades of other readjustment issues I encountered.
My first marriage ended in divorce because I was unable to deal appropriately with the anger, depression and self-hatred I felt as a result of my service.
I found redemption and renewal decades later when I reconnected with my relationship with Jesus Christ and at the same time met my current wife, Judy, in 1984.
I was also blessed with the fact that Judy had a three-year old son from a previous marriage, whose father was not in his life. I call Ronnie “my second-chance” son. He has given the me a second chance to prove I could be a good father where I had so miserably and shamefully failed once before.
Still, it was NOT an easy time for Judy to live with someone like me.
During my last visit with our private family doctor of 30+ years he made an interesting observation. He said; “I’ve noticed you are not wired as tight as you used to be when I first met you. You’re happier and more relaxed”, “what’s happened?” I thought for a moment and told him it was Judy. She literally saved my life.
In the late 70’s I was headed for a job as a mercenary in Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe). Before I could take the job Rhodesia fell to the forces of socialist dictator Robert Mugabe. I continued to look for other “opportunities”, engaged in “risk taking” recreational activities like skydiving but eventually settled on a tour with US Army Special Forces as a medic on an A-Team. If it wasn’t for Judy I could have easily died in some jungle or desert thousands of miles from home.
In Taya Kyle’s book, American Wife, Taya wrote a simple prologue :
If I Could Sum Up My Life In Four Words, They Would Be These:
Taken Together. These Have Brought Me Great Joy, Though With That Joy I have Also Found The Deepest Sorrow.
As I finished my all too brief conversation with Taya I told her that I just wanted to stop by and say how much her and Chris’s story touched my heart. Then came the moment for the photo-op (above).
As the photo was being taken she put her arm around me, squeezed my shoulder and in a gentle voice said “thank you for your service”.
It didn’t hit me until I sat in my car to leave.
She thanked ME for my service. I had come to thank her. I had heard those words before. But this time they meant something more, much more, coming from someone who had lost so much, who had sacrificed so much. I couldn’t stop the tears.
It is America who should be thanking the families of our Warriors who have sacrificed so much.
God Bless them All.