Saying that Chris Kyle's "remarkable, selfless service may be unrivaled in the annals of our proud history," Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday posthumously awarded the late Navy SEAL sniper the state's highest military honor.
At the ceremony, Abbott also awarded the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to Lt. Col. William "Ed" Dyess, a World War II veteran who died in 1943. Dyess' sister accepted the award on his behalf.
During the event held outside the Governor's Mansion, Abbott spoke of Kyle's service record and his work assisting other veterans. Kyle was a Navy SEAL from 1999 to 2009. Abbott said Kyle's conduct during and after his service in the Iraq war is "what has made America so incredibly great."
Kyle, subject of the movie American Sniper, was fatally shot in 2013 at a gun range in Erath County by a fellow veteran who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle's widow, accepted the award on her husband's behalf. At her request, all current and former members of the armed forces present in the audience came forward for a moment of recognition.
This wasn't the first time Abbott honored Kyle's service. A few weeks after taking office this year, Abbott declared Feb. 2 "Chris Kyle Day" across Texas, marking the two-year anniversary of the sniper's death. In June, Abbott signed a bill designating part of U.S. Route 287 in Midlothian, where the sniper went to high school, as the Chris Kyle Memorial Highway.
Dyess, originally from Albany, Texas, was captured by Japanese forces in 1942 and held captive during the Bataan Death March. After the march, Dyess led the war's only large-scale prison break in the Pacific Theater. He died in a training accident on American soil shortly after returning from the war.
"These two men lived decades apart, but they shared the common bond of uncommon valor," Abbott said.
Several members of the Legislature attended the ceremony, as did former Gov. Rick Perry and UT System Chancellor William McRaven. Abbott thanked McRaven for his service as a Navy SEAL and commended Perry for his five-year stint in the Air Force.
Patrick Svitek contributed reporting.