AUSTIN — Surrounded by the graves of heroes, soldiers and legends, the body of decorated military sniper Chris Kyle was laid to rest Tuesday in the Texas State Cemetery.
The 38-year-old known as the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history was honored with bagpipes, a funeral salute and taps at a private ceremony in the sunshine near a small waterfall on the cemetery grounds.
With a giant Texas flag at half-staff overhead, Texas first lady Anita Perry presented Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, the American flag from his casket.
The services, attended by about 150 mourners, took place after a 180-mile funeral procession down Interstate 35 from Kyle’s hometown of Midlothian.
“For me, it’s a way of saying thank you to a true hero,” said Chris Dion, an Air Force active duty dog trainer at Lackland AFB who rode into town from San Antonio with about 100 Patriot Guard Riders, motorcyclists who volunteer to escort military funerals.
Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, were shot and killed Feb. 2 at a gun range southwest of Glen Rose in Erath County. Eddie Ray Routh, 25, has been charged with two counts of capital murder.
Remembered by his family as a softhearted father and husband, by his friends as “the legend” and by his wartime enemies in Iraq as the Devil of Ramadi, Kyle was widely known for his book, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.
He was buried in a section of the cemetery known as Statesman’s Meadow, at the center of 21 acres of gently rolling hills, waterfalls and a stream. He was laid to rest near the grave of former University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal and close to the 9/11 monument.
Mourners waved flags from overpasses up and down the interstate as the procession, escorted by an estimated 200 Patriot Guard Riders, began from Midlothian in the rain at 8:45 a.m. and arrived to sunshine in Austin three hours later.
The hourlong burial service included the tradition of Navy SEALS “pinning” the casket with Trident pins before it was lowered into the ground.
Leather-clad Patriot Guard Riders, many of them with military backgrounds, ringed the cemetery in a flag line, standing frozen in silent tribute. Mourners shook their hands, hugged and thanked them as they left the cemetery.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst attended the service, but Gov. Rick Perry was out of state.
Officials said Kyle’s brother requested permission from an overseeing committee for Kyle to be buried in the cemetery that is the final resting place for Texas politicians, honored members of the military and other public figures.
A two-hour memorial service on Monday drew 7,000 to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.Twitter