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Fallen hero and best-selling author Chris Kyle had strong ties to Stephenville, having been a student at Tarleton State University in the early 1990s. On January 26, Tarleton held its Annual Distinguished Alumni Gala, and Kyle was given the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award for 2013 in absentia because of a previously planned training session he had committed to prior to being alerted to the recognition he was to receive, according to Bonnie Peterson of the Tarleton Alumni Association. Major General Chris Adams, himself honored as a Distinguished Alumnus in 1991, nominated Kyle for the award. "I accepted the award on his behalf," Adams said. "We were going to deliver it to him as soon as we could." A week later, news of the Kyle/Littlefield tragedy would sweep across the country. And the term post traumatic stress disorder was destined to become a ubiquitous phrase. Adams weighed in on the torment of PTSD. "Today, it is really traumatic what those kids are undergoing over there," he said of the conflict in the Middle East. "It's the strangest war, and I fault the brutality and technology of the weapons being used for causing so much mental anguish." Adams was in Austin when he received word of the shooting. "We had just honored the fellow," he said. "It was the most surreal feeling in the world - almost unbelievable." As a fellow retired soldier, Adams was especially grieved by the news of Kyle's and Chad Littlefield's deaths. "I'm retired military myself and have great, absolute respect and appreciation for anyone who chooses to step forward and commit to serving in the armed forces," Adams said. Jeff Mikus, also a Tarleton alumnus, grew up with Kyle in Midlothian and recalled his friend as being raised in a close-knit family. "We went to the same high school, and I knew his family really well," Mikus explained. "His parents taught him right from wrong. He and his brother worked hard as kids and didn't back down from difficulty." Kyle and Mikus were on the same high school FFA parliamentary team, and Mikus remembers his old friend as a supportive force. "He was a super guy," Mikus said. "He had a way of encouraging people to do better, a light-hearted way of motivating people." That Kyle died while in the midst of mentoring a fellow veteran comes as no shock to Mikus. "He often took younger students under his wing," he said. Mikus echoed the sentiments prevalent throughout a nation that is mourning its national hero. "It's just a bad deal for both of them," he said. "It's unfortunate when good people die young."
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