Lone Survivor

lone survivor

Members of SEAL Team 10, From left:  Matthew Axelson, Daniel Healy, James Suh, Marcus Luttrell, Eric Patton and Michael Murphy pose in Afghanistan on June 18, 2005. Ten days later, all but Luttrell would be killed by enemy forces while supporting Operating Redwing.

The United States has been at war with Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan since October 2001.  Special forces soldiers, including the Navy SEALs, have played an important part in the war, often at great sacrifice.  In 2005, the SEALs undertook a mission that is the subject of a current movie.  Lone Survivor is based on the book of the same title by Marcus Luttrell,  the only SEAL to survive the mission.

The story involves the events of Operation Redwing, a mission to locate a top Taliban leader.  A four man reconnaissance team was dropped in the mountains behind enemy lines led by Lieutenant Michael Murphy, and included Luttrell, Petty Officer Matthew Axelson and Petty Officer Danny Dietz.  Events quickly turned the mission into a very different one than was planned.  After being discovered by local goat hearder who alerted the Taliban, a much larger Taliban force quickly surrounded the SEALs.  What unfolded over the next two plus hours was a firefight in which three of the four men were killed, leaving Luttrell as the lone survivor.

No writer can tell the story of these men better than Luttrell himself.  The bravery and heroism the men displayed during this time is what makes the story such a compelling one.  Despite being shot multiple times and suffering grievous wounds , both Axelson and Dietz continued to fight until their last moments.  Murphy, unable to get a clear signal to call for help, exposed himself to enemy fire to get reception.  Despite being shot and wounded, he made a radio call that led other SEALs and special forces soldiers to come to the team’s aid.  For this, Murphy was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Tragically, 8 SEALs and 8 Army Night Stalkers were killed in the rescue attempt when their helicopter was shot down by an RPG.

There are many different thoughts one can have after seeing this movie.  For me, the overwhelming thought was appreciation.  Where would America be without men willing to do this?  There is a finite amount of Americans who could do this sort of work even if they wanted to.  Every man on that mountain put themselves there voluntarily.

I am also grateful this story was told.  America, and young Americans need to understand what a hero is.  It is these soldiers and those like them, not actors and pop culture figures.  How many other stories are out there similar to this one that Americans do not know about?  Undoubtedly, many.

This movie is ultimately Marcus Luttrell honoring his fallen friends.  He does this with great success.  Actor Mark Wahlberg who portrayed Luttrell in the movie was asked what he learned during filming.  “I need to be a better man” was his answer.

Footnotes:

The movie is rated R for graphic combat sequences and language.  Some scenes differ from the book for increased dramatic effect.

The book is Lone Survivor, The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell.

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