Courtesy Sarah Palin

The former VP candidate lauds Bradley Cooper for his "accurate portrayal" of Chris Kyle

January 21, 2015 03:25 PM

The real-life American Sniper, Chris Kyle, was more than “an ultimate warrior,” says Sarah Palin, he was her friend.

As the screen version of Kyle’s story stirs both controversy and box-office records, Palin spoke with PEOPLE via email Wednesday about the former Navy SEAL killed in 2013.

Palin first met Kyle in 2011 when, already retired from the military, he helped with security at one of her public appearances. They bonded when Kyle went on to star with Palin’s husband, Todd, in the reality TV competition show, Stars Earn Stripes.

Below, Palin responds to PEOPLE’s questions about the film, the controversy, and the lasting impact the late sniper made on the Palin clan:

Did Bradley Cooper do justice to the Chris Kyle you knew?

Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Mark Wahlberg and others like Dean Cain, who was another friend of Chris, defy typical Hollywood self-centeredness by putting their heart and soul and tremendous physical efforts into accurate portrayals of true heroism. I honor them for honoring the US Military through projects like American Sniper, Lone Survivor, and their pro-military charity events. Guys like those four – and Gary Sinise, Ted Nugent, Kid Rock, and others – know that the hope for our future is protected by and embodied in brave men and women represented in their work. I love them for standing strong in the face of cowardly fire from their colleagues.”

Tell us something about Chris that would surprise viewers of the film.

“Chris was a humble guy, like most vets, who did his job and was never really comfortable in the limelight. His passion was his family, faith, his country, and his fellow vets whom he always supported. We joke with Todd that Chris called him “Rambo” – this, coming from an ultimate warrior! After getting to know Todd he said when challenges arose, “I want Todd on my side.” No higher higher compliment from such a hero.

“My son Track, also a combat vet, shuns the limelight and has met enough ‘celebrities’ to not be star struck, so when he said the most impressive opportunity I’ve had over all these years was meeting Chris Kyle – and he’s ‘the one’ Track really wanted to meet – that said it all. The only poster on his wall was Chris Kyle, even before Chris’ horrific murder. And my son has the bumper sticker on his refrigerator, reading: ‘God bless our troops. Especially our snipers.’ He knows who deserves America’s respect”

How is Chris’ wife, Taya, and their children taking the controversy over the movie?

Taya and her family have faced much harsher enemies than those the film gathers in Hollywood. She’s a strong Christian woman, an amazing single mom, so beautiful and confident, she honors Chris’ legacy by rising above horrible actions by the haters. You know, I believe from bad comes good, and though this is all inexplicable to our worldly minds, God has a plan and gives real hope to those who’ll accept it. He’s given this to His daughter, Taya, and she’s sharing that hope with the rest of the world now.”

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