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Chris Kyle Memorial, Odessa, Texas

By Michael Miyamoto, LASN


KDC Associates, Midland, Texas, designed a pro bono memorial in Odessa, Texas, for Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL who served four tours of duty as a sniper in Iraq. Kyle's life and career are the subject of a movie and a book, both called "American Sniper."


Kelly Cook, a partner at the landscape architecture firm that designed the Chris Kyle memorial, wrote the copyrighted poem that is inscribed on the walls of the memorial. It is titled "Constant Vigil Keep," and reads: "Raise the flag, o son of mine, and constant vigil keep; Our enemies are far and wide and waiting for our sleep; Remember dawns of Texas days and skies so fair and blue; Fight for them now with all your strength, and may your aim be true; Yet steady yourself for days to come when arrows no longer fly; Forget not your kinsmen then, who stumble tho they try; Reach down to them with steady hand and let them see your stare; Lift each one up, dust them off, and show them that you care."      Photos: Tamara Pruessner

Most people are aware of the story of Chris Kyle, the U.S. Navy SEAL veteran and sniper who served four tours of duty in Iraq and was subsequently killed back in the States while trying to help a fellow veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. "American Sniper," a movie made by Clint Eastwood that stars Bradley Cooper, is a biopic about Kyle's life and career. His biography was also published in a book by the same name.

Citizens in Kyle's birthplace in Odessa, Texas, formed a task force to develop a memorial honoring Kyle. The Texas-based landscape architecture firm of KDC Associates was selected to design the site. Jonathon Pruessner, ASLA, was the lead landscape architect.

Kelly Cook, ASLA, a partner at the firm, said, "When the task-force approached us with the project commission, I said that we would do it under two conditions. One, we get to do it right; and two, we are not going to charge you.

"I was very familiar with the Chris Kyle story," he said. "I had read his book and watched the movie before the project came up. I knew that there were those who had negative opinions regarding the war and snipers in general. But I also knew of the hundreds of American soldiers, and perhaps thousands of Iraqi citizens, who owed their lives to Chris and his SEAL family. The war was on, American lives were in danger, and it was Chris' job to try to save them. It was a time for action and not philosophy."

The landscape architecture firm was given carte blanche in the design of the $500,000 project. The design team wanted the memorial, in every way possible, to be symbolic of Kyle's life and SEAL career. Noted western sculptor Vic Payne created the centerpiece of the memorial, a bronze statue of Kyle holding an American flag. The statue and its limestone base reach 17 feet into the sky. The plaza itself is made out of native Texas limestone, with the name of each state carved into the surface. Highly polished black granite from North Carolina form the walls and benches. Three stone tridents, the symbol of the SEALs, bisect the plaza. Four live oak trees, one for each of Kyle's tours of duty, provide shade. The trees were a gift from the ranch of President George W. Bush.

Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle's wife, attended the dedication of the memorial in July 2016, along with several congressmen and an estimated 2,000 people.

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January 20, 2019, 6:09 am PST

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