How big a figure former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle cut was on display again Thursday as about 100 police and Patriot Guard riders escorted a life-size sculpture of him to an Arlington foundry where, over the next 12 to 14 weeks, it will be cast in bronze.
The 6-foot-3 clay replica of Kyle, who was fatally shot Feb. 2, was formed by Sarasota, Fla., sculptor Greg Marra, complete with sunglasses, trimmed beard and battered baseball cap.
It is set for a private screening at Schaefer Art Bronze today, and public viewings will be held Saturday and Sunday.
The idea for the sculpture came from E.F. "Gene" Sweeney, executive director of Bradenton, Fla.-based American Patriots in Art, who said he contacted Marra on Feb. 2 after hearing of Kyle's death at a Glen Rose resort's gun range.
"Work began on the sculpture on Feb. 4, and we've been moving at warp speed ever since," Sweeney said while waiting on the motorcade to arrive at the foundry. "Our purpose is to honor fallen American heroes and restore patriotism to this country."
The sculpture, which will be donated to the Kyle family to place where they wish, made stops for ceremonies Thursday at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, where Kyle is buried, and at the Waxahachie Civic Center, near his hometown of Midloathian.
Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, were gunned down by Eddie Routh, a veteran they were working with who reportedly suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Routh remained in the Erath County Jail Thursday.
'A regular guy'
Marra said he had already formed a sculpture of a Navy SEAL that he hoped would serve as the inspiration for a SEAL memorial, and the idea of changing it into Kyle's likeness was a no-brainer.
"I knew this was why I was doing it," he said. "It was divine inspiration."
Kyle wrote American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, an account of his four tours in Iraq, where he said he killed at least 160 enemy combatants.
He also appeared on TV, and it was on one of those shows that Marra learned about him.
"He was talking about how even Navy SEALs come back with issues like PTSD," Marra said. "He was talking like a regular guy. I thought to myself that I would like to meet him."
Today, he'll meet Kyle's family and get feedback on the sculpture, which he likens to a modern version of Greek statues.
"Instead of a shield and spear, he's holding a .50-cal," he said. "But the look in his eyes is humanitarian. Look into his eyes, and the guns melt away and he's just a 38-year-old with a family and kids, just like me."
Tommy Ladd, manager of Schaefer Art Bronze, said the finished statue might be comparable to the one at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington of Shannon and Cooper Stone. Shannon Stone died in July 2011 after falling from the stands.
The bronze work will cost an estimated $85,000, but Schaefer is donating part of the cost and organizers hope to raise the rest of it through donations.
"I felt Chris' spirit moving through my fingers," Marra said. "What was I supposed to do with it, create something pretty? Or do something to help heal a nation?"