SAN ANTONIO - On the day Gov. Greg Abbott proclaimed "Chris Kyle Day," veteran Army sniper Nicholas Irving shared his thoughts and grieved for the Navy SEAL sniper.
"I knew of him overseas," Irving said. "He was kind of like a ghost. Like a myth ... I heard about this guy killing 160, 150 guys and for me it was more or less just like 'Yeah, right.'"
But during his six years of service, Irving learned the tales were true.
Irving served in the Army's Special Operations 3rd Ranger Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment where he earned the nickname "The Reaper."
It's the same title he gave his autobiography which details his three deployments to Iraq, two deployments to Afghanistan, 33 kills and subsequent struggles with PTSD and thoughts of suicide.
The book also honors Cpl. Benjamin Kopp, who Irving says saved his life when he and his men were surrounded by the enemy.
"When I could start hearing the people's voices and their footsteps getting really close is when our team leader debated, should we pull a grenade and jump on top of it and kill ourselves?" Irving said. "But right before that happened, Benjamin Kopp came in to save us with his machine gun team and five minutes after that, I watched him get shot."
Kopp was killed.
Irving has been interviewed nationally as the film "American Sniper," the story of Kyle's military career and legacy, continues to break box office records.
He has seen the movie twice.
Irving welcomes the support the movie has received, but acknowledges those who have said Kyle was not a hero.
"Anybody who has those negative comments, I'm willing to pay for the ticket to go over to Afghanistan with my guys and they can see firsthand what it really is like," Irving said.
Irving says there is one way to honor Kyle's memory.
"Thank a veteran," he said. "That's about as much as you can do."
Irving is no longer active duty and now trains civilians on long range precision shooting.
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