The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 4, 2013

Ex-Navy SEAL died pursuing his passion

— STEPHENVILLE, Texas (AP) — The former top Navy SEAL sniper who authorities say was killed at a Texas shooting range was devoted to maintaining camaraderie and helping his fellow veterans find their way after leaving active duty.

Chris Kyle, author of the best-selling book "American Sniper," and his friend Chad Littlefield apparently were doing just that Saturday when, officials say, they were shot and killed by former Marine Eddie Ray Routh.

Kyle, 38, had left the Navy in 2009 after four tours of duty in Iraq, where he earned a reputation as one of the military's most lethal snipers. But he quickly found a way to maintain contact with his fellow veterans and pass on what had helped him work through his own struggles. By late 2011, he filed the paperwork to establish the nonprofit FITCO Cares, which received its nonprofit status the following spring, said FITCO director Travis Cox.

"Chris struggled with some things," Cox said. "He'd been through a lot and he handled it with grace, but yeah he did struggle with some things. And he found a healthy outlet and was proactive in his approach to deal with those issues and wanted to help spread his healing, what worked for him, to others. And that's what he died doing."

For Kyle that healthy outlet was exercise. At the heart of FITCO was giving in-home fitness equipment to physically and emotionally wounded veterans, as well as families who had lost a veteran, Cox said.

Littlefield, a 35-year-old friend and neighbor, was Kyle's "workout buddy," and also volunteered his time to work with veterans, Cox said. He was married and had children as well.

"He's a very gentle, sweet-hearted man, just a great man, kind of quiet," Cox said of Littlefield. "He just really cared. ... He wanted to do whatever he could to help veterans and help see that vision of serving others that Chris had. He shared that vision with all of us. He was a great man."

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