'American Sniper' Chris Kyle’s Widow Taya Kyle on What He Was Like as Husband, Father

"There is so much more to him," Taya Kyle told ABC News' Robin Roberts.

April 29, 2015, 6:38 PM

— -- While the public has come to know former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle as the most lethal sniper in U.S history, his wife, Taya Kyle, says there was another side to him that hasn’t yet been seen.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts, Taya Kyle described the intimate world she shared with her husband and their children.

“There is so much more to him,” Taya Kyle told Roberts. “It was my chance to share some of that side too, ‘cause I think ... he's earned it.”

In the wake of her husband's death, Taya Kyle wrote a memoir, "American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith and Renewal," which details their story, how she dealt with her husband's death, and her life as a military spouse. The book will be released on Monday, May 4, in collaboration with Jim DeFelice and published by William Morrow Publishers.

Watch the full interview, "Love. War. Renewal. The Taya Kyle Story," on a special edition of ABC News' "20/20" HERE.

Chris Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, were murdered at a gun range by former Marine Eddie Ray Routh in 2013. On Feb. 24, 2015, Routh was convicted of capital murder in their shooting deaths.

For Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle was the love of her life and her cowboy in shining armor.

“He just had this softness and this tenderness and genuine caring heart for us. And, you know, I just, I continue to look back and be in awe of how he managed it all so well, honestly,” she said. “I've gotten to experience more of what it's like to be in great pain and try to manage a family, and he did a great job.”

Taya Kyle, who grew up in Portland, Oregon, was working as a pharmaceutical sales representative in Southern California when she met Chris during a night out at a bar.

“I mean, we're in a bar, you know, and he was so genuine and had a depth to him and this really hot body with a cute face and then an interesting career path,” she recalled. “I was intrigued, but I didn't think that it would ever be anything serious.”

Taya Kyle said the portrayal of their first meeting by Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller in the Oscar-winning film “American Sniper,” which was based on Chris Kyle's book of the same title, was true to life.

“The funny thing is, in the movie, you see Bradley's hand, or at least I did, where he just gently has his hand on Sienna's head, and it's such a gentle, tender exchange even though he had just met her,” Taya Kyle said. “And I feel like that was so incredibly true with Chris.”

Though she never wanted to marry a Navy SEAL, Taya Kyle said, she later knew he was the one.

“Life was just life to him, and he didn't hide anything. He didn't pull any punches. He made me feel like he was excited to talk to me, to see me, and he was just this simple, fun, deep person,” she said.

The two married on March 16, 2002, exchanging inscribed wedding bands. Taya Kyle wrote, “My life, my love,” on Chris Kyle's ring, and he wrote, “All of me,” on hers.

While their commitment to each other grew stronger after their wedding, he was torn between his love for his country and love for his family. After their wedding, he was called up for duty.

PHOTO: Taya and Chris Kyle were married on March 16, 2002.
Taya and Chris Kyle were married on March 16, 2002.
Courtesy Taya Kyle

But when he was home, Chris Kyle was committed to their two children: a son, whom he immediately nicknamed Bubba, and a daughter nicknamed Angel.

“I truly don't think there's a better example of what a father should be than him, and I don't say that lightly. And I don't even think it's all that biased,” Taya Kyle said.

She added that she can barely recall a day when her husband was not laughing with their children, no matter what kind of day he had.

“He expected them to look him in his eye, and be polite, and have good manners and do what they're told. And then he cuddled them, you know. He was always available for hugs and, you know, big hugs and a lot of love,” she said.

As a SEAL sniper, Chris Kyle was sent to the worst areas with the heaviest combat. He accepted the possibility he could be killed, Taya Kyle said, but was also mindful of every precious moment he shared with his children as each of his deployments drew closer.

In between kill shots, Chris Kyle sent emails to his wife showing his soft side and writing, “Just counting down the days, waiting for that big bird to take me home,” and, “Smoooooooooch!!!!! I can’t wait to give you a real one.”

However, Chris Kyle spent more and more time in Iraq than at home with his family. He called home when he could, but Taya Kyle, raising both kids on her own, was reaching the breaking point.

“I mean that simultaneously angry and thinking, like, ‘I love him so much, and I don't want to ever make him carry that burden when he's over there, so I can't really let him know that I'm angry,’” Taya Kyle said. “But you also know: How are you supposed to be mad at somebody who's serving their country and putting their life on the line every day?”

By the end of Chris Kyle's fourth tour, Taya Kyle put her foot down, making him choose between family and the SEALs. After 1,000 days in Iraq, he came home for good.

“It wasn't just for me, and it wasn't just for the kids,” Taya Kyle said. “This is a guy who would go until there was nothing left, and I felt like he was kind of on the precipice of not having much left.”

PHOTO: Taya Kyle said she can barely recall a day when Chris Kyle was not laughing with their children, no matter what kind of day he had.
Taya Kyle said she can barely recall a day when Chris Kyle was not laughing with their children, no matter what kind of day he had.
Courtesy Taya Kyle

Although his family was happy to have him back, war changed Chris Kyle, and he had a hard time adjusting to civilian life. He moved the family to Texas.

Tensions rose between Chris and Taya Kyle, and even worse, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was shutting her out. The couple came close a number of times to not working it out, she said.

Chris Kyle couldn’t tell Taya Kyle about everything that happened to him while he was in Iraq, but he had no trouble chronicling his war experience in “American Sniper,” an instant best seller, which was later turned into the Clint Eastwood-directed film.

Nearly three years after he had come home, he finally turned his life around. As a bestselling author, he had the means to support his family and conquered his demons.

Chris Kyle even began helping fellow veterans adjust to civilian life by taking them to the hunting resort, Rough Creek Lodge. He found that hunting and target shooting helped veterans relax and open up.

“Chris had so many good times down here. And you know, I love that this guy also felt this was a good place to do it,” Taya Kyle said. “And it's something that's, you know, it's a good thing for people.”

Taya Kyle has continued to move forward with her life since her husband's death, keeping his legacy alive by writing her memoir.

“I still feel like I see him in the kitchen, you know? I still feel like he's everywhere. It's somewhere in between knowing that we have to move forward and always knowing he's there,” she said.

“I think I'm OK," she added. "I'm surrounded by really good people, and I have amazing kids and friends. And I have work that I think is fulfilling and important.”

PHOTO: Book cover for Taya Kyle's memoir, "American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith and Renewal."
Book cover for Taya Kyle's memoir, "American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith and Renewal."
William Morrow Publishers

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