AUSTIN, Texas – Governor Greg Abbott presented two Texas Legislative Medals of Honor to the families of two great Texas heroes on Wednesday.
The families of Army Air Corps Lt. Colonel William Edwin “Ed” Dyess and Navy Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle accepted the honor from the state of Texas.
Governor Abbott recognized other Texas leaders on hand to pay tribute to the two Texans. Those leaders included key members of the Texas House and Senate, Former Governor Rick Perry, and Texas adjutant general, Major General John Nichols. Other uniformed service members and a large contingent of former Navy Seal veterans joined them.
The medals were presented posthumously to the family members who were present. The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of state or federal military forces by the state of Texas.
“America is the brightest beacon of freedom the world has ever known because of all who have honorably worn the uniform of the mightiest military in the history of the world,” Governor Abbott said during the presentation attended by Breitbart Texas. “For their remarkable valor and selfless service, it is my distinct honor to present the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to Lt. Col. Ed Dyess and Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle. We can never repay the debt we owe for the lives these men saved and the freedom they preserved, but today we honor their memory, their patriotism and their sacrifice.”
Abbott spoke with great reverence about the service and sacrifice of these two similar men separated by a few generations.
“While the nation still reeled (from the attack on Pearl Harbor, 1st Lt. Dyess was one of the first Americans to engage the enemy,” Abbott said of the heroic pilot. “The New York Times later called Dyess, the ‘One man scourge of the Japanese’ because of his staggering heroism.”
“Whether shooting down enemy planes, leading America’s first amphibious landing of WWII or conducting audacious air raids, Dyess was unstoppable,” the governor continued. “So devastating was his attack on the enemy supply depot at Subic Bay, that Radio Tokyo reported 54 bombers and swarms of fighter planes had been responsible. It was [then] Capt. Dyess and five battered war planes.”
Abbott told the attendees that Dyess’ love of flying began at the age of four when he went for his first flight with a “barnstormer” in East Texas. Dyess would eventually earn the rank of lieutenant colonel.
While Dyess’ combat actions were heroic in and of themselves, his own death was heroic as well. While experiencing mechanical problems with an aircraft in California, Dyess attempted a forced landing in a street. Bailing out of the plane would have meant its certain crash in a residential area. While attempting to avoid hitting a car during the landing, Dyess pulled up and crashed into a church. “He was killed instantly,” Abbott said.
Abbott presented the award to the sister of Colonel Dyess, Elizabeth Denman. Dyess would have turned 99 earlier this month.
The citation for the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor for Lt. Colonel Dyess reads:
William Edwin Dyess, World War II flier, was born August 9, 1916, in Albany, TX. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and began assaults on Bataan and Corregidor, Dyess was thrust into combat in the Asian Theater as commander of all flying squadrons on Bataan. On March 3, 1942, in Subic Bay he sank a Japanese ship and damaged shore installations. As the enemy closed in, Dyess refused evacuation and remained with his men in the Philippines. On April 9, 1942, the American forces surrendered to the Japanese, and Dyess became a prisoner of war. He survived the horror of the Bataan Death March and imprisonment at camps O’Donnell and Cabanatuan and the Davao Penal Colony. At Davao, Dyess and several other prisoners escaped on April 4, 1943. They contacted Filipino guerillas that led them to the submarine Trout on July 23. After returning home and staying in an army general hospital in Virginia to regain his health, Dyess was promoted to lieutenant colonel and resumed flying on December 22, 1943. He was killed that day in Burbank, CA, attempting an emergency landing and was buried in Albany.
Dyess Air Force Base, near Abilene, Texas, was named for the heroic WWII Army Air Corps pilot.
A family member of Colonel Dyess told this writer that Dyess and Navy Seal Chris Kyle had another thing in common. They both attended Tartlon State University in Stephenville, Texas.
“Known by his peers as “The Legend” for his uncanny skill, Chief Kyle was as FEARED by the enemy, as he was celebrated by his fellow Americans,” Abbott said in describing America’s “deadliest sniper.” “He was nicknamed ‘The devil of Ramadi’ by the insurgents, who put an $80,000 price on his head.”
Abbott told the attendees that Kyle volunteered for four, very dangerous, tours of duty in Iraq.
“During the 2nd battle for Fallujah in Nov. 2004, 4 men were trapped near a heavily fortified enemy position. Chief Kyle ran through enemy fire, joined the trapped men & provided suppressing fire, to enable them to escape,” Abbott said describing the heroic actions of Chief Kyle. “As he made his own escape one of the Marines was wounded. With enemy rounds thudding all around him, he grabbed his comrade by his body armor & dragged him 50 yards to safety. He then returned to the battle until every last enemy insurgent was killed.”
Abbott presented the award to the widow of Chief Kyle, Taya Kyle. In a very touching moment, Mrs. Kyle asked that she be joined by all veterans who were present because “he did not fight alone.” The governor and Mrs. Kyle were joined by nearly fifty uniformed and non-uniformed military service members and veterans for the presentation.
The citation for the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor for Chief Petty Officer Kyle reads:
Christopher Scott Kyle was born and raised in Texas and was a US Navy SEAL from 1999 to 2009. He is currently known as the most successful sniper in American military history. According to his book American Sniper, he had 160 confirmed kills (which was from 255 claimed kills). Kyle served as a Navy SEAL in 4 tours in the latest Iraq war. For his bravery and military skills, he was awarded some of the highest medals in the US military multiple times including the Bronze and Silver Star. In 2009, Kyle decided to leave the SEALS and was honorably discharged. After some time struggling with civilian life, he started a security company called CRAFT and wrote the New York Times bestselling book, American Sniper. Kyle was murdered at a shooting range by a US military veteran he was trying to help on February 2, 2013 in Texas.
Following the presentations, Governor Abbott stayed behind to speak with those in attendance and take pictures with the family members. He then hosted a reception for the families and dignitaries inside the Governor’s Mansion.
Bob Price is a senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and on Facebook.