WACO (February 12, 2013)—The funeral procession for slain Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, which the Department of Public Safety says may be the longest in U.S. history, passed through Central Texas on Interstate 35 Tuesday morning on its way to the Texas State Cemetery where Kyle will be laid to rest.
Hundreds of residents lined the highway and packed highway overpasses to pay tribute to the slain war hero.
The 38-year-old SEAL, who was reputed to have been the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, and another veteran were shot to death earlier this month at a North Texas shooting range.
The procession left Midlothian about 45 minutes later than planned Tuesday morning, but was underway by around 8:45 a.m. as a light rain fell.
Master Sgt. C. J. Grisham was one of many who lined the 6th Avenue overpass in Belton Tuesday in tribute to slain Navy SEAL sniper, Chris Kyle.
"I came out here today to really show support for a guy who continued serving troops even after he got out," Grisham said.
Grisham writes a blog called “A Soldier's Perspective” and hosts a radio show called “Top Talk USA,” both of which deal with tough military issues such as suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Grisham had Kyle on his show after the released of Kyle’s book "American Sniper."
"We had him on our show to talk about his book and his service in the military I've also spoken to him a lot about his work with soldiers with PTSD because that's something that I write about as well," Grisham said.
Grisham said he hopes the open approach with the disorder can reach other soldiers who are battling the same issues he faced.
"In 2010 I almost committed suicide and instead of picking up that gun I picked up the phone and I called somebody and the fact that they picked up that phone is something that saved my life," Grisham said.
A white hearse carried Kyle's flag-draped coffin, followed by about 200 motorcycles, vehicles and busses on the 200-mile trip to Austin, where Kyle will be laid to rest in the Texas State Cemetery.
The procession arrived just after 10 a.m. in the Waco area, accompanied by military personnel, first responders and Patriot Guard Riders.
Waco police blocked southbound on-ramps about three minutes before the arrival of the procession and kept them closed until the procession passed.
Firefighters were positioned along the southbound side of the highway through the city.
Hundreds of people lined the highway as the procession passed through the city, many holding flags.
A crowd also gathered Tuesday at Harley-Davidson of Waco along the southbound side of Interstate 35 including some Patriot Guard Riders.
A large contingent of Patriot Guard Riders joined the motorcade in Waco, staging at a truck stop at new Road and I-35 and using the on-ramp near Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center.
Lorena police shut down both of the town’s on-ramps during the procession and said the Brookshire's parking lot and the rest area south of town were the best places for onlookers to go.
Temple police had units positioned at southbound on-ramps, which were blocked as the procession passed through the city.
Horny Toad Harley Davidson between Temple and Belton planned to line up motorcycles outside the dealership, whose engines will be started and lights were turned on as the procession passed.
Some local Patriot Guard members planned to be at the dealership with flags to show their respects.
Temple Fire & Rescue stationed personnel and trucks on each overpass in the city in Kyle’s honor.
Two ladder trucks were at the lower overpass of South Loop 363 with an American flag suspended between their extended ladders.
In Belton, the 6th Avenue overpass was closed to traffic to provide a vantage point from which to watch the procession.
The overpass quickly filled with residents, many waving flags.
Firefighters suspended an American flag from the elevated ladder of a Belton Fire Department truck.
Southbound exit ramps were also be blocked in Salado as the procession passed.
Authorities said the Interstate 35 reset area south of Salado was a good place from which to view the procession Tuesday.
The procession passed from Bell County into Williamson County at around 11:15 a.m.
Thousands Attended Memorial Service Monday
Thousands of people attended a public memorial service for Kyle on Monday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
Military pallbearers carried Kyle’s flag-draped coffin into the stadium Monday, as some of Kyle's relatives walked behind it.
Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was among those who attended the service.
"God bless this great warrior," she said in a Facebook post.
She expressed disappointment that U.S. flags weren’t flying at half-staff for Kyle.
Kyle’s widow Tara fought back tears as she spoke at the memorial, telling a crowd estimated at 7,000 that their marriage was a "crazy ride" and a deeply fulfilling experience.
She said people always told her Kyle was lucky that she stayed with him, but she said she's the one who was lucky that Kyle stayed with her.
She told the mourners that he'll always be with her.
Kyle’s friends and military comrades called him a dedicated family man known for his sense of humor, compassion, selflessness and generosity.
During the service, country music star Randy Travis sang "Whisper My Name," which he said Kyle's widow told him was a meaningful song for the couple.
Travis also sang "Amazing Grace."
Bagpipers played as Kyle's flag-draped coffin was carried out of the stadium at the conclusion of the service.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in a statement Monday, called Kyle “the public face of an anonymous breed of American warrior who are handed the hardest missions and assume the largest risks.”
“Chris was among the very best at what he did, and he saved countless American lives in the process,” Perry said.
“Our state and our nation suffered a profound loss with his passing.”
Iraq War veteran Eddie Ray Routh, 25, has been charged in the Feb. 2 shooting deaths of Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a North Texas gun range.
Kyle, who completed four tours of duty in Iraq and wrote the best-selling book "American Sniper,” earned a reputation as one of the military's most lethal snipers during four tours of duty in Iraq.