Feb. 2 marks the two-year anniversary of the Navy SEAL's murder
American Sniper has once again come out on top at the box office, bringing in a record-breaking $31.9 million over Super Bowl weekend. But the film’s latest success comes at a bittersweet time as Monday marks the two-year anniversary of Chris Kyle’s death.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has declared Feb. 2 as “Chris Kyle Day,” honoring the Navy SEAL whose story inspired the film that has become the highest-grossing war-themed movie ever. (American Sniper has already brought in $248.9 million in six weeks, beating out previous record-holder Saving Private Ryan.)
Kyle was famously killed in 2013 while he was mentoring Eddie Ray Routh, a troubled vet, at a gun range. Routh was charged with Kyle’s murder and will stand trial on Feb. 11. His attorney told PEOPLE in January that Routh will plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
Meanwhile, the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation has set aside Feb. 2 to remember Kyle, writing that he was “an inspiration to many as he lived his values by God, Country and Family.”
“He was an American Patriot, and a loving husband and father,” the foundation wrote on its Facebook page. “The Chris Kyle Frog Foundation Team aims to keep his legacy alive, through assisting our military members, first responders and their families. Rest in Peace Chris. Forever in our hearts and minds.”
Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, spoke to PEOPLE for this week’s cover story, saying that her late husband would have been “in awe” of the success of American Sniper, which was based on his 2012 memoir of the same name.
“Part of the beauty of it is that he was just so humble,” Taya said. “It makes me really emotional when I think about how he would react.”
“At the same time, I can also see him being almost uncomfortable in some ways with the attention,” she continued. “He got used to it in some ways with the book but not entirely – not ever.”
Kyle was clearly beloved by his fellow soldiers. Frank Gallagher, a former special ops recon Marine and author of The Bremer Detail: Protecting the Most Threatened Man in the World, met Kyle while he was head of the security detail guarding Paul Bremer, the Presidential Envoy to Iraq, when the U.S. first invaded in 2003.
“Chris was idolized by his teammates and the SEAL teams and the Marines,” Gallagher tells PEOPLE. “I mean, he was their guardian angel He didn’t care about who got the credit for it as long as all the guys came home. He did what he did because it was the right thing to do.”
• Reporting by K.C. BAKER