Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who inspired Clint Eastwood's blockbuster film "American Sniper," was a man of faith with a "huge heart" despite what some critics are saying, according to his widow Taya.
His compelling story was brought to life over the weekend in Eastwood's Academy award-nominated film, which set a box office record by pulling in an estimated $105 million during its opening weekend.
On social networking sites the film was a hot topic and it sparked political debates about war, particularly whether or not Kyle, widely considered to be the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history for having 160 confirmed kills, is a hero.
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Controversial filmmaker Michael Moore ruffled feathers when he referred to snipers as "cowards" in a tweet on Sunday, without directly referring to the film. The post instantly garnered backlash from conservative talking heads such as Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin who both condemned the tweet while praising Kyle as a hero.
In an interview with People magazine, Taya dismissed criticism directed at her late husband and said that he should be remembered for having fought for the freedom of his country.
"There's an inaccurate stereotype of these guys, that they love war," Taya, 40, said. "I can promise you, they don't love war. But they do love that fight for what they would say is justice for each other."
Kyle was 38 years old when he was fatally shot in 2013 at a Texas gun range by Eddie Ray Routh, a former Marine he was trying to help overcome PTSD.
The late father of two served four tours in Iraq before he left the military in 2009 to focus on his family. He later became an advocate for veterans' mental health.
In his 2012 best-selling autobiography American Sniper, which set the premise for Eastwood's film, Kyle described war as "hell."
"War is hell. Hollywood fantasizes about it and makes it look good... war sucks," he wrote.
He also opened up about how he believed his role in the Iraq war would affect him on judgment day.
"Every person I killed I strongly believe that they were bad," he wrote. "When I do go face God there is going to be lots of things I will have to account for but killing any of those people is not one of them."
Kyle himself pegged the number of his confirmed kills much higher than has been reported to around the 255 mark and in his book he said that he has few regrets about the killings.
"It was my duty to shoot the enemy, and I don't regret it. My regrets are for the people I couldn't save: Marines, soldiers, buddies. I'm not naive, and I don't romanticize war. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. But I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job," he wrote.
The Odessa, Texas, native was raised as a Christian as his father was a deacon and his mother was a Sunday school teacher, but he admitted that he was "not a perfect one." He had peace of mind about the war knowing that he had accepted Jesus as his Savior.
"I believe the fact that I've accepted Jesus as my savior will be my salvation," he wrote. "But in that backroom or whatever it is when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die."