Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, is born and raised in Texas. He grows up hunting with his father, and develops a strong sense of duty to his country. In 1996 he signs up for the U.S. military, and is recommended for the Navy SEALs, at the time a relatively unknown branch trained to fight on land, in the sea, and in the air. Kyle makes it through intense physical training, during which he’s water-boarded, forced to exercise for hours at a time without rest, and deprived of sleep.
Shortly after completing his SEAL training, Kyle is stationed in Long Beach, California, with Team 3 of the Navy SEALs. There, he meets his future wife, Taya. Taya is attracted to Kyle in part because he’s unusually humble for a SEAL; at one point, he tells her, “I’d lay down my life for my country.”
Kyle is stationed in California during September 11, 2001; he’s horrified by al-Qaeda’s terrorist atrocities, and wants to deploy to the Middle East as soon as possible. In the end, it takes almost two years for Kyle to deploy. During this time, Kyle continues to train rigorously for combat. He also marries Taya. Shortly after their honeymoon, Kyle ships out to the Middle East for his first tour.
In the Persian Gulf, Kyle works with Team 3 to raid Iraqi oil tankers suspecting of sneaking oil out of the country. He finds that he enjoys firing a gun, and feels “badass” in active combat. In spring 2003, Kyle and the rest of Team 3 arrive in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the operation designed to liberate the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. In Iraq, Kyle’s duties include raiding houses, securing oil fields, and fighting small groups of insurgents. He develops a deep hatred for the insurgents, many of whom are fundamentalist Muslims, who are trying to kill him and his friends.
Kyle returns from his first deployment and reunites with Taya Kyle. Taya immediately notices that her husband has changed: war has made him moodier and angrier. While back in the U.S., Kyle attends sniper school and learns how to shoot accurately from incredibly long distances. Kyle is only an average sniper, he admits, but while stationed in Iraq, he has ample opportunity to shoot insurgents. Before shipping back to Iraq, Taya gives birth to their first child, a baby boy. Taya begins to hate Kyle for leaving her to take care of their child.
Back in Iraq, Kyle collaborates with the Polish GROM fighters (the counterparts to the SEALs). He raids apartment complexes suspected of harboring insurgents, and provides sniper backup for his friends. Kyle finds that he feels little guilt or hesitation about shooting insurgents—he knows he’s doing the right thing. On his second deployment, Kyle earns a Bronze Model for valor.
Kyle returns from his second deployment, and Taya finds it even more difficult to talk to him than usual. Kyle struggles with the pace of civilian life, and sometimes wakes up screaming in the middle of the night; however, he begins to bond with his child. Taya senses that Kyle is guilty about some of his actions in Iraq, but doesn’t want to ask him about what he did. She admires her husband greatly for his service to their country.
Kyle returns to Iraq, which has been liberated from Saddam Hussein. The country is full of dangerous insurgents, and Kyle and the SEALs work hard to make the city of Fallujah safe. Kyle also spends a short time near the Euphrates River, where he provides sniper backup for U.S. Marines. Kyle and his platoon are next transferred to the city of Baghdad, where they’re tasked with protecting democratic officials as the country prepares for its first elections. Privately, Kyle believes that democracy will never catch on in Iraq. He endures a few minor injuries during his time in Baghdad, but refuses to seek medical attention—he knows that seeing a doctor is a recipe for being sent home. On his third tour, Kyle amasses a huge number of insurgent kills, and begins to acquire a reputation as a superb soldier.
Back in the U.S. again, Kyle begins to bond with his son. However, he and Taya continue to have marital problems, especially after Taya learns that Chris is planning on reenlisting in the military. Taya warns Chris that if he does so, she’ll know that he values the SEALs more highly than he values his wife and child. Nevertheless, Kyle reenlists. A few days before Kyle leaves for Iraq, Taya has an emergency C-section, and gives birth to their second child, a baby girl.
In 2006, back in Iraq, Kyle bonds with some new recruits, including a young, funny SEAL named Ryan Job, and an older, charismatic SEAL named Marc Lee. Kyle hazes the new SEALs, along with his friends, but comes to consider both Lee and Job good friends. Kyle and his fellow SEALs are deployed to the region of Ramadi to fight insurgents. The SEALs are also tasked with training Iraqi soldiers and police officers; however, Kyle finds this work to be useless, since most Iraqi soldiers and police officers are lazy and undisciplined. Kyle and the SEALs also fight in the Battle of Ramadi, when American troops take over the city.
On this tour, Kyle learns that he’s acquired the nickname “The Devil of Ramadi”—insurgents know that he’s a deadly sniper, and have put a huge bounty on his life. Nevertheless, Kyle continues with his work, providing backup for the troops and raiding Iraqi houses, which the military quickly converts into bases.
One day, Kyle leads a group of SEALs through Ramadi, and tells Ryan Job to stand to one side of the street. Because of where he stands, Job is shot in the head by an insurgent, and ends up losing both eyes. Shortly afterwards, insurgents kill Marc Lee. Kyle is devastated by both tragedies, and feels particularly guilty for Job’s accident. Then, in September 2006, Kyle learns that his daughter might be dying of leukemia. He decides to go back to the U.S., though he feels guilty for leaving his soldiers behind.
Back in the U.S., Kyle learns that his daughter is going to live. He begins drinking heavily, and finds that he’s suffering from knee injuries he sustained over the course of his last few tours in Iraq. He spends five months in physical therapy to ensure that he’ll be able to fight in Iraq again. Before leaving for his deployment, Kyle promises Taya that he won’t reenlist after this tour.
Kyle is deployed to Sadr City, where he and his fellow SEALs raid houses and fight a group of insurgents called the Mahdi Army. While fighting in Sadr City, Kyle has several brushes with death—one day, he’s shot in the back, and the force of a bomb throws him to the ground. Violence is escalating in Sadr City, and Kyle tells his superiors that the military needs to fight harder, rather than trying to win the “hearts and minds” of moderate civilians. Much to Kyle’s annoyance, his superiors ignore his suggestions.
Kyle finally ships out of Iraq in 2008. He’s tempted to reenlist, but ultimately decides not to because of his promise to Taya. Back in the U.S., he reunites with Ryan Job, with whom he remains good friends until Job’s tragic death from surgical complications. Kyle also founds a shooting school with an old friend. He cuts back on drinking, goes to counseling with Taya, and decides that he wants to remain married to her. Looking back, he decides that his time in the SEALs has made him a stronger, better man.