I will be at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Monday, and I know I will take many of you with me in spirit.
But apparently not everybody.
The occasion will be the Texas memorial service for Chris Kyle, an American hero in every sense of the term. But if it is one battlefield where he earned his honor as our most prolific sniper, it is another battlefield that has sprouted since his death.
This arena is a war of words, sparked by the strong opinions of a variety of people on what Chris Kyle meant to our nation.
To me, he is a prime example of devotion to duty and service to country. I spoke with him on the “American Sniper” book tour, and he visited my church last year. He exuded both confidence and humility, and a strong obligation to God, country and family.
The family and country parts are often at odds for our most committed warriors. When they are at home in the role of husband and father, they are not on the battlefield doing what is necessary to kill the enemy. When they are engaged with the enemy, they are not at home where their beloved families need them.
This sacrifice only added to my admiration for Chris. When I heard of his murder at a gun range 90 minutes from my house last weekend, my heart sank.
The irony was searing. Here was a man who walked into countless lines of fire, taking out the enemy in scores of perilous war zones, only to die back here at home, helping a fellow veteran.
I have a feeling I will have a lot of company at that Monday memorial service. The outpouring of love and remembrance in the week since his death has been deeply moving.
But it has also had another effect. It has brought out the worst in souls from various corners who have allowed their disdain for our war to consume their basic human decency.
Since Chris and his fellow troops fight for our freedoms every day, it is fitting that freedom of speech is in full throat on his Facebook page, where updates about his memorial service mingle with casual posts he left before his murder.
One features an image of a soldier manning a massive piece of artillery. Above the image it says: “Mayor Michael Bloomberg says 19-year-olds aren’t responsible enough to have a pistol or rifle.”
Below the image: “He obviously forgets who protects his rich pansy---” well, you get it. Chris obviously enjoyed some vigorous give and take on issues of liberty and what it takes to maintain it.
And in the comments beneath the post, you can find the harmonious approval of many who loved Chris when he was here and who honor him now.
And the two cents of some who feel differently.
From Monday, a post that has sparked some response: “He was, by choice, another puppet who invaded and attacked and murdered people in another country. He got what he deserved.”
The replies have been, shall we say, creative. But what needs to be remembered is that there are more than a few people who feel this way.
Millions of Americans are critics of the war on terror. That’s fine. It is part of our freedom of expression, which Chris knew he was fighting for.
But for some, it is not enough to voice opposition to the war effort. There must follow a sick derision of those who have undertaken it.
There will always be a slice of public opinion driven by the dark and disturbed. But we rarely see such displays of ugliness from people enjoying wide respect as high elected officials.
Which brings us to the sad case of Ron Paul.
This would be a good place for me to make clear my admiration for the former congressman, whom I have long regarded as a hero for fidelity to the Constitution and wisdom on fiscal matters.
This has mixed with my distaste for his unwise isolationism, which has led him as far as blaming America for inviting 9/11 with our deployments in the Middle East.
But this week takes the proverbial cake.
Taking to Twitter, he locked arms with the despicable souls who have taken to cyberspace with their Chris Kyle condemnations.
“He who lives by the sword dies by the sword,” said the usually gentlemanly Paul, insulting countless soldiers, past and present.
Sensing public revulsion at a paraphrase of “he got what he deserved,” Paul attempted damage control with a “clarification” that took him one step forward and two steps back.
The step forward was identifying Chris’ murder as “a tragic and sad event.” The offer of condolences was very kind, if late.
But he just couldn’t let it go. “Unnecessary wars have endless unintended consequences,” he continued, perpetuating his habit of suggesting that Chris and his brothers in arms are fools engaged in an unworthy exercise.
But why stop there? Why not co-opt Jesus for the cherry on top? The statement finishes: “A policy of non-violence, as Christ preached, would have prevented this and similar tragedies.”
Look, people are welcome to wrap themselves in whatever pacifist piffle they please. But it takes a special level of gall to suggest that Jesus frowns on a man who served his nation by stopping those who would kill us.
But such is the pathology of those for whom war opposition is not enough. Whether from the desk of a former congressman or the dark basement of a Facebook denizen, the urge to insult and debase those who wear the uniform of this country should be met with the strongest of objection.
But first, we have a far more important duty. For my part, before I waste one more moment bothering myself with the foul tongues of Chris Kyle’s defilers, I will proudly join thousands Monday to say two things to this American hero:
Farewell, and thank you.