When Taya Kyle journeyed back to familiar grounds Tuesday, the route she traveled over was a bit different.
Tuesday, she returned to the memorial plaza dedicated to Chris Kyle in Odessa, the place of his birth, once again pulling off a busy highway, kicking up dust over tough West Texas terrain, on the way to that often-quiet oasis built with granite and stone, to stand again with the likeness of her late husband.
This time, though, as she passed into Ector County and made her way there, she didn’t ride in on the same road as before.
This time, she rode in on Chris Kyle Memorial Highway.
Ector County’s stretch of Highway 191 was officially named in honor of the late, decorated Navy SEAL veteran and sniper on Tuesday, before a dedication ceremony at the site of the Chris Kyle Memorial Plaza.
Taya Kyle and local representatives spoke to dozens of assembled observers at the ceremony, as cars and trucks whizzed by behind them on the nearby highway now named in the veteran’s honor.
“I thought it was such a beautiful addition to this memorial plaza,” Taya Kyle said, just behind the statue of her late husband after Tuesday’s ceremony.
Texas Rep. Brooks Landgraf
He’s a native son of Odessa, a true American hero, and we wanted the highway that runs next to the Chris Kyle Memorial Plaza to also bear his name.”
“It’s been incredible.”
The statue was first unveiled in July 2016 at the memorial plaza, which stands adjacent the veterans’ clinic on the campus of Medical Center Hospital on Highway 191.
Now, a sign aside the highway near the Midland County line, along with an opposite sign at the intersection of 42nd Street and Kermit Highway to the west, stand naming the stretch of 191 after the famed veteran whose autobiography ‘American Sniper’ became a best-seller and was being adapted into the movie of the same name before his death in 2013.
Taya Kyle was on hand in Odessa when the statue was unveiled in 2016, and two years later, returned to see the memorial efforts continue to grow.
State Rep. Brooks Landgraf and State Senator Kel Seliger also spoke at the dedication Tuesday, after Landgraf pushed a bill to dedicate the highway through the Texas House of Representatives last year, before Seliger pushed the bill through the Texas Senate.
“He’s a native son of Odessa, a true American hero, and we wanted the highway that runs next to the Chris Kyle Memorial Plaza to also bear his name,” Landgraf said. “We were proud to do that, and proud to have Taya Kyle on hand. I think this is a great moment for our state and a great moment for West Texas.”
Taya Kyle said she was glad to be back, and glad that the statue’s unveiling wasn’t the end of the memorial project, but that the project has carried on and continues to grow.
The Chris Kyle Memorial Committee is now seeking donations to help fund landscaping around the memorial and the addition of lighting fixtures.
“I really appreciate the people of Odessa,” Taya Kyle said. “I think they’ve gone above and beyond. They wanted to do a statue but they’ve gone above and beyond with the whole plaza — the way they’re planning on lighting it up, and having the highway, and being next to a center for wellness.
“I really am impressed by the people of Odessa. When they decide to do something, they do it really, really well and they continue to build on it. I haven’t seen anything like it.”
Kirk Edwards, chair of the Chris Kyle Memorial Committee, spoke as well, also awarding plaques to Landgraf and Seliger in thanks for their work in the legislature to pass the bill, before welcoming Taya Kyle to speak.
“She’s got an incredibly busy schedule,” Edwards said of Taya Kyle. “A lot of people want her time and talents right now, but for her to take the time to come out and bless this group with what she said today — I think her words are very meaningful and heartfelt and it means a lot to us to have her here today.”
All spoke about the importance of memorializing veterans, noting that while Chris Kyle’s statue stands at the center, the memorial plaza is dedicated to all those who serve.
Edwards said he was happy to expand the memorial efforts into the dedicating the stretch of the highway, hoping that, years from now, passersby would look up Chris Kyle’s name and learn about him and his vision.
Landgraf said he and Seliger were happy to draft and work to pass the bill, saying the idea to name the nearby highway actually came about when the statue was first unveiled, as vehicles buzzed by behind the unveiling ceremony.
“The crowd seemed to be all for the idea of naming this stretch of Highway 191 as the Chris Kyle Memorial Highway,” Landgraf said. “It took off from there, and we had a lot of momentum down at the state capitol.
“So many things that we do at the state legislature don’t have tangible impacts. This certainly does. And you can see how much it means to everybody in West Texas and to the Kyle family. To have it pay off like this, it’s really rewarding.”
Those interested in the Chris Kyle Memorial Committee’s projects can learn more by contacting the Odessa Community Foundation at 432-332-9111, or by visiting OdessaChamber.com/Chris-Kyle-Memorial.
“From what I’ve heard there’s been a lot of healing here, and that was the intent from the beginning,” Taya Kyle said.
“I think that’s a beautiful thing.”