Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Lone Survivor"

I finished listening to a really good book yesterday called Lone Survivor. This short book is the true story of U.S. Navy SEAL team 10 and Operation Red Wings. In June 2005 four Navy SEALs went into Afghanistan under cover of darkness on a special mission looking for Ahmad Shah, a terrorist and threat to the United States.

On June 28, 2005, the four members of Navy SEAL team 10 (Marcus Luttrell, Matt "Axe" Axelson, Danny Dietz and  Mike Murphy)  were found by two goat herders and a 14-year-old boy the morning after they arrived in the Hindu Kush mountains. This accidental meeting with these goat herders proved fateful and the SEALs were faced with a huge dilemma. They could kill the goat herders, but they worried about being charged with war crimes and possible imprisonment, not to mention being villainized by the liberal media in America. They also had moral issues with killing three innocent people, but knew that if they let them go there was a good chance they would alert the Taliban. They ultimately decided to let the goat herders go.

About 90 minutes after their decision to let the goat herders go the SEALs were ambushed by a group of about 150 members of the Taliban. The SEALs engaged in a firefight and held their own against this group for a while, but they were surrounded with nowhere to go. They tried calling for backup, but couldn't get a signal from the position they were at on the mountain. Mike Murphy, the team leader, made the decision to leave the spot where he was concealed in order to get out in the open where he could get a signal. This decision* meant certain death for him, but he sacrificed himself in attempts to get backup to hopefully get the other three SEALs out alive. This decision did result in Murphy's death, but he was successful in getting a signal and getting word to the Lieutenant Commander. Dietz and Axelson also lost their lives during the firefight. Marcus Luttrell was badly injured; he broke his back is a fall down the mountain and sustained other fractures, but he miraculously survived.

[*A chinook helicopter carrying 16 special forces officers (8 Navy SEALs and 8 Army night stalkers) came to try and rescue the four SEALs on the mountain after receiving the distress call from Mike Murphy. The helicopter was shot down by the Taliban and all 16 men on board were killed. 19 men lost their lives in Operation Red Wings, making it the worst single day loss of life disaster in the history of Naval special forces warfare.]

Marcus didn't sleep much that night and went off in search of water the next day since it had been nearly 24 hours since the last he'd drunk something. The Taliban fighters were still tracking Marcus and they found him, but he still had his gun and managed to kill the Taliban fighters before they killed him (although he was shot in the leg in the process). Marcus finally found water and managed to get two swallows of water before looking up, seeing two men watching him. Fortunately these men were local villagers, not Taliban fighters. They took him back to their village, gave him food and water and tended to his wounds. This was a risky move for them, especially after the Taliban fighters came looking for him. The villagers hid Marcus and kept him safe for several days.

The long story short is that Marcus was rescued about a week later. Here's a picture of SEAL Team 10 (L to R): Mike Murphy, Danny Dietz, Matt Axelson and Marcus Luttrell
Marcus was awarded a Purple Heart medal and the Navy Cross for his actions. Dietz and Axelson were posthumously awarded Purple Hearts and Navy Crosses and Mike Murphy earned the prestigious Medal of Honor for sacrificing himself to make that distress call.

This book was recently made into a movie and was what piqued my interest in the book (although I won't be seeing the movie since it's Rated-R and I'm sure would be pretty graphic). Mark Wahlberg is the actor that played Marcus Luttrell:
Marcus is now retired from the Navy and in one of the interviews I watched with him he said that he was thinking of going to medical school (he was a medic in the Navy, as well as being a SEAL). He's also gotten married to his wife, Melanie, and they have two kids.
Above is a picture of Marcus with Mohammed Gulab, one of the men from the village that provided him protection from the Taliban after they found him. Marcus and Gulab formed a strong bond those few days when Marcus was waiting to be rescued. The sad thing is that Gulab has received many threats from the Taliban for his involvement in helping Marcus and his house was burned down and one of his cousins was murdered. Gulab and Marcus consider themselves brothers and Gulab has even come to America to visit Marcus on his family's ranch in Texas.

It didn't take long before I was "sucked in" to this book. It was really intense and I found it difficult to tear myself away from it. I developed a deeper appreciation and respect for Navy SEALs. Those guys are tough! I definitely recommend this book, but be advised that this book had terrible language in it. I suppose it's not hard to believe of military men in a stressful situation. 


Anonymous said...

Great guy. Sad story.

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