Texas rep. introduces bill for ‘American Sniper’ to receive nation’s highest combat award

An image of slain Navy SEAL Chris Kyle hiding Easter eggs on Easter day is shown on a monitor in the courtroom during the murder trial of former Marine Cpl. Eddie Ray Routh in Stephenville, Texas, February 11, 2015. (Reuters / Tom Fox / The Dallas Morning News / Pool via Reuters)
Were the actions of Chris Kyle, known as the United States’ deadliest sniper, worthy of the Congressional Medal of Honor? A representative from Texas believes so, and has introduced legislation to that end. But veterans aren’t so sure.

Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) introduced the Chris Kyle Medal of Honor Act, which would "authorize and request" President Barack Obama to posthumously award the nation's highest military honor to the former Navy SEAL for his acts of valor performed during the Iraq war.

“Chris gave the ultimate sacrifice and served his nation with distinction and bravery while saving countless American lives. There is no doubt that this true American hero is worthy of our nation’s highest military honor,” Williams said in a statement. “While the Medal of Honor will not bring back a husband, father, son and a model Texan, we owe Chris Kyle and his family a great deal of gratitude for his relentless devotion to his country.”

Post by Roger Williams.

Williams’ district includes part of the county near Fort Worth where Kyle was killed at a firing range, the Washington Post’s Checkpoint blog reported. The 38-year-old veteran was credited with more than 160 kills during his service in Iraq. His longest and most remarkable kill – from 1.2 miles away – took out an insurgent aiming a rocket launcher at an Army convoy.

"He truly is an American hero. He saved countless American lives during his four tours,” Williams told Fox News. “And it comes at a good time too. It lets people in America and our soldiers, the best and the brightest we have, to let them know that we appreciate them and the job they do and that we love them."

Kyle wrote an autobiography called ‘American Sniper’ which was turned into a blockbuster movie by director Clint Eastwood and was released in January. Veterans believe that Williams is using the sniper’s fame ‒ and the film’s $322.59 million box office sales ‒ as a political ploy.

“There are hundreds of members of the military whose martial biographies are similar, but they don’t have a best selling book and a blockbuster movie, and I get the feeling that is the only reason that Williams is going through all of this because of Kyle’s name recognition,” Army veteran John Lilyea wrote on military blog This Ain’t Hell. “The [Eddie Ray] Routh trial and the success of the movie about Kyle are intersecting at the Medal of Honor.”

The SEAL received two Silver Stars, the third-highest combat award, and five Bronze Stars with the Combat Distinguished Device ‒ also known as 'V Device' ‒ for his actions. However, it is not believed that Kyle’s past commanders ever nominated him for the award, Checkpoint’s Dan Lamothe wrote.

Though named the Congressional Medal of Honor, it is not up to the legislative branch to dole out the United States’ highest award for combat valor.

Instead, the president, in the name of Congress, awards the medal to a vigorously vetted recipient who has "distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty." The act of valor must occur during one of three circumstances: While engaged in action against an enemy of the United States, while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

Williams noted that Congress previously passed legislation to waive certain restrictions that would prevent a potential recipient from being awarded the medal, citing a Congressional Research Service (CRS) paper published in September.

“Generally speaking, this type of legislation is rarely enacted,” the CRS paper said. “In a very limited number of cases, the medal has been awarded outside the legal restrictions concerning time limits. These cases are often based on technical errors, lost documents or eyewitness accounts, or other factors that justify reconsideration. These cases, however, represent the exception and not the rule.”

Along with the relative rarity of awards granted via legislation, like what Williams introduced Tuesday, Kyle is not a likely recipient because, of late, the Medal of Honor “nearly always goes to a service member who performed a single, extraordinary act of valor,” Lamothe wrote.

A petition on the White House website asking President Obama to award Kyle the Medal of Honor failed to meet the required 100,000 signature threshold within 30 days. It is unclear when the We the People request was posted.

Williams introduced the legislation Thursday, two days after Routh – a Marine veteran who has battled post-traumatic stress disorder – was found guilty of murdering Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, in February 2013.