Q&A: Taya Kyle reflects on what Memorial Day means to her
The City of Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation department is partnering with the Lake Oswego Veterans Memorial group for a Memorial Day ceremony where the ribbon will be cut on the new LO Veterans and First Responder Memorial marking its official opening.
Festivities begin at 11 a.m. Monday, May 27, featuring remarks from Taya Kyle as well as LO-resident and U.S. Navy Reserve Commander Captain Jonathan Puskas.
Gold Star Wives of America will hold a wreath laying ceremony, a flyover by the West Coast Ravens will grace the sky and a 21-gun salute will be held to commemorate the event.
Kyle is a renowned author, political commentator and veterans' family activist. She is the wife of the late Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle, who authored the book "American Sniper," and the daughter of Lake Oswego Mayor Kent Studebaker. She will speak about her new book "American Spirit" ahead of the Memorial Day event at City Hall, 380 A Avenue, Sunday, May 26 from 7-9 p.m. Copies of Kyle's book will be available for purchase, but the event is free and open to the public.
Kyle spoke to The Review earlier this year about what Memorial Day means to her, and what wisdom she hopes to impart on folks during her speech this coming Monday. The full interview is below.
It's a pretty momentous occasion to have you speak at the ribbon cutting for our local veterans and first responders memorial. What made you want to come and be a part of this event?
Lake Oswego is near and dear to me; I grew up going to the lake all the time. We lived in Gladstone and my grandparents were in Lake Oswego. Of course now my parents are there, and I'm so proud to be a part of this. I love the patriotism, I love the lake. Chris will be represented there for his service, as will my dad. It's going to be a special time.
What are some themes you hope to touch on in your speech?
I think there's not only a time to remember those who serve on Memorial Day, and those who have given all for our freedom, but to remember that those who are living now are making sacrifices.
For me, we have Chris Kyle Frog Foundation where our mission is to honor god, country and family. We do that by taking care of the marriages. We know that if the marriages are intact, we cut down suicide, drug addiction and alcoholism. We keep the family together and help the next generation by letting those kids know that when the marriage hits hard times, they don't just survive it, they can thrive in it.
Whenever we hear veterans talk about their service, they always talk about how hard it is for their family. What can we do show support for them and their families?
I think on a micro level, if you know someone in the community and you can help them in anyway small way, it's really good for their psyche. They know that somebody not only sees the service member, but they see the sacrifice of the family. Some examples are just mowing someone's yard or buying them a cup of coffee. If they're a spouse you know well, offer to babysit.
The thing here is you can't just ask if they need help. They're used to being independent and not relying on other people. Instead what you have to do is say, "I'm mowing your lawn." Something to that effect. You take the initiative.
I had someone once just anonymously put a little dollar store flag in our yard on patriotic holidays after Chris was killed. It was inexpensive, but it said, "I'm paying attention, I remember, I see you."
Those little touches are good on a micro level.
On a macro level, at the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, our mission is to let these people know, the whole country is behind (them). A lot of people understand that their most sacred, safe space is in jeopardy. We know that if what you see on a day-to-day basis is evil, it's important to believe there is one safe space, and that's your home.
Why is it important, even on a local level like here in Lake Oswego, for us to remember those who have fallen or passed away, and honor them with a memorial like this?
The saying I've heard is that, our soldiers are at war, america is at the mall. I think when you see memorials like this, people using their hard earned dollars to put up a memorial, it reminds warriors and their families that while it seems like nobody is paying attention sometimes, that the real people in the real world are paying attention, they do remember, they do care.
Your father has been a huge proponent of this memorial, what does that mean to you as a military wife and as supporter of our veterans and their families?
People in politics are losing sight of the fact they are there to represent the people, not the other way around. A lot of times in politics today, the upper echelons are trying to convince the populace that their ideas are best — it was never supposed to be like that. It was supposed to be, like you said, people like my dad who say, it's not about my opinion, it's about the opinion of the people.
There's a couple reasons that he has a great perspective on these issues. One, he retired from the Marine Corps as a lieutenant colonel. He doesn't advertise that, but he has a greater understanding because of it.
I think that there's a humble nature to him … and that's coupled with a deep understanding of what service requires of people. He also has a big heart, and he knows that sacrifice doesn't go away once you get a to a healthy place after grieving someone's loss. That loss is felt forever, and it ripples through generations. So someone who lost their grandfather they never knew, there are a few generations that are affected by that. So having this memorial at Foothills Park, it's about giving respect to all the families and all the people who served in a way that will last generations. This isn't just a one-time event. It's a standing memorial that will remind people that we did this now and we'll continue to make sure we don't forget.
I hope people know that they're taking their money, their time, and investing it in a way is really powerful, beautiful and soulful. It's not about politics at all, rather remembering that our freedom has a cost and we appreciate that we get to live in this great country and in this great community of Lake Oswego, Oregon.