I hope you are ready for a fantastic episode today because I am thrilled about who I get to have a conversation with. My guest is Taya Kyle. If you have seen the movie American Sniper, you already know how powerful this woman is. She is the widow of Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL who was the deadliest sniper in American history. Not only that, but Taya is a bestselling author, political commentator, and military veterans family activist. She took the worst pain of her entire life and turned it into the ultimate purpose, and that’s what this show is all about. I know she is going to inspire you so much.
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I felt so connected. The more I researched your story and what you’ve been through, the more similarities I could find with my own, and I think that’s the beautiful thing that happens when tragedy strikes. We can all be connected in one way or the other. For those of our listeners who don’t know who you are and your story, or haven’t seen the movie, can you just go back and explain a little bit of that?
Chris was in the military, and he had just graduated from BUDS when I first met him, and he became a Navy SEAL. We quickly fell in love and got married. Both of us have this adventurous spirit, and I really never loved someone the way that I loved him. He was just a very unique person in my life that I frankly needed to lock down before I messed it up. That’s totally how I thought about it.
We went through more than I would have ever thought when I got married. I feel like people think you know what you’re getting into when you get married, especially in a service life, but you don’t. Nobody knows a bomb is going to go off and change everything, literally and figuratively. It happens to all of us. And so, life rocked us quite a bit. And God healed us quite a bit. In the end, Chris got out of the military and we moved back to Texas and he was wanting to help somebody, and, you know, we later learned in the murder trial that this guy did not have PTSD, according to his psychiatrist and they rescued animals. That’s what Chris went into the meeting thinking, and he ended up killing Chris and his friend Chad.
Then life just took a very drastic turn for my kids and me. It’s been hard to put into words…
I’m looking forward to answering your questions because I could go on and on, but I’d rather just talk with you because I think we do have a lot in common. I think there is something to finding your faith in the midst of…when it feels like hell on Earth.
Yeah, hell on Earth is a great way to describe it. I know your husband had four tours in Iraq. I can’t imagine what that was like for you and your family. I don’t usually watch a lot of war movies, I haven’t since 2013, because of my own trauma. But I actually sat down and watched American Sniper in preparation for talking with you because I felt it was so important. First of all, I bawled my eyes out. It was so moving to see the struggle for what he was doing on his side, but also the struggle for you at home. You were having to be the strong person, for your kids and for him, while keeping everything together, and then having to deal with the trauma when he was home. I mean, what were your thoughts during these times and how did you do it?
We have a foundation now. It’s called the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation and it’s about helping service families stay together and stay strong, and it’s also about mental health awareness as well. We’re really about helping military families by keeping the marriage strong. Sadly, 80% of the suicides in the service community are relationship related. Also, there’s no formula for a perfect treatment of PTSD, you need somebody who’s on your side and who you believe is on your side. Right? So if you’re married, your marriage has to be in a good place for you to feel like it’s a team effort. Otherwise, it feels very lonely. And I think trauma is lonely anyway because everybody experiences it differently. So we’re very invested in trying to help other people do it. And the reason I bring all that up is when you asked,
‘How did you do it?’ I did it clumsily. I did it painfully. I did it confused and lost. And I had these moments and these people who dropped these tools in my lap that I desperately needed at the time. And when Chris was enlisted, during the time that he was serving there was a 97% divorce rate of the enlisted guys in SEAL teams. So I looking back… well, how did we make it?
Our goal with the foundation is to give people the tools that I learned to pass them forward to them. We stay connected with them for two years because marriage is a long game, right? And it’s my gift to give people what I wish I would have had… so that they may have less of the painful, clumsy parts in trying to keep their marriage together. Every marriage is going to have that when you start out anyway, most likely, but also a big part of what I learned is that fear is not helpful.
I learned a lot about fear, and I’m still learning about it. I think it’s a very complex issue and we don’t give it near enough time and attention. It truly robs us, and it’s unwarranted unless it’s that here on the back of your neck… fear, right? Really that’s not fear, that’s intuition. If you have that feeling, you listen, right?
But it’s the ‘pondering about the future’ type of fear that is so damaging… it does nothing, and it’s so harmful. I learned that in order to be the mom I wanted to be, I couldn’t be afraid. Because living in fear, knowing Chris was in firefights every day and being afraid of what that meant, would mean I was always on edge with these two precious gifts of our children. And I wanted more to be a good mom that I wanted to live in that fear. And I knew that my relationship with God was already getting a lot deeper. So I feel like the biggest answer to your question of how did I do it? I think it comes down to the fact that I asked for help when I could, and I learned the hard way. And I learned how to lean into faith.
I have chills as you’re talking about this because it’s so similar to how I was feeling after everything happened with us. I was frantically searching for answers for my son because he had experienced so much trauma. It’s one thing for me to see and experience it, but it’s a completely different ballgame for him. And I was the same way, I was clumsily trying to find the help and the answers that we both needed to survive at that time. But it was beautiful because I took what I learned and, just like you, formed the foundation that we have now to help children and their families that are suffering from trauma. I don’t want people to have to question where to go, how to seek mental health treatment, and how to get the answers they need. I just think that it’s really beautiful because that whole process truly embodies the Pain to Purpose spirit that I am trying share in this podcast. Sometimes we have to go through some very painful things in our lives to ultimately lead us to our purpose.
Yeah. There’s a saying that we are forged through the fire… and I feel like I like to learn, and I’m naturally super curious. So I oftentimes thought, ‘No, that you have to go through it to really learn about it.’ And I still think that’s true to a certain extent, but there’s this other side, that you probably do have to go through it… for it to change you. I think somebody can look at an experience and learn about it and be empathetic and even be a counselor about it, but for it to change you… on a soul level… there has to be that horrible struggle. And I’m curious to know if you feel like you are a different person now?
I think I’m definitely the same in a lot of ways. In terms of how I was, I typically was very positive. I feel like my life beforehand was a series of sink or swim moments. Six months before Boston, I got held up in a Walmart parking lot and robbed at gunpoint. I thought that was gonna be the biggest thing to overcome, but then everything else happened, and I was changed on a soul level… because every day I wake up, I’m thankful just to wake up. I’m thankful to have one more day with my family and my son. It doesn’t matter if I lost my leg or had all of these operations. What matters is that we’re still here, and as long as we’re here, we have purpose.