Monday, April 20, 2009

Lone Survivor - Marcus Luttrell

lone_survivor_coverI just finished reading Marcus Luttrell's account of "Operation Redwing" entitled Lone Survivor. From the back cover of the book (paperback):

On a clear night in late June 2005, four U.S. Navy SEALs left their base in northern Afghanistan for the mountainous Pakistani border. Their mission: to capture or kill a notorious al Qaeda leader. Less than twenty-four hours later, only one of those Navy SEALs remained alive.

The book begins with Luttrell's detailed account of the training he, and his fellow SEALs, endured in order to receive the honor of wearing the SEALs "Trident." Regarding the SEAL Trident: "The SEAL insignia is the only insignia in the United States government where the bald eagle is bowing his head. It represents the honor the US bestows to those willing and dedicated enough to persevere through the most difficult training in the world. (Source) After reading Lone Survivor...I believe that statement! SEAL_tridentAs I read of the day to day training these men went through, I found myself constantly asking myself: "Could I EVER have endured this type of intense training?", followed by: "Thank God there are men that can and DO!" (For the record, I've never served in the military. My father was in the Navy, as was my youngest brother. The government had done away with the "draft" by the time I turned 18. Looking back, I think I would have greatly benefited from at least a two-year military stint.)

For a large portion of the first six chapters, Luttrell jumps between the journey from Bahrain to the mission's drop site along the Pakistan border and biographical sketches of his SEAL team, including detailed sketches of the training that would prepare them for their assigned mission.

Without giving away the story, the mission goes bad and the team of four Navy SEALs find themselves in the fiercest battle of their lives against 100+ heavily armed Taliban fighters. I choked back tears as Luttrell described the intense battle and the almost superhuman bravery of his team as they fought for their lives, the honor of Navy SEALs trident, and the country they loved. In the end, the "Battle for Murphy's Ridge" as it would later be referred to, would take the lives of Petty Officer Matthew ("Axe") Axelson, Lieutenant Mike Murphy, and Petty Officer Danny Dietz. Just knowing these guys were on "our side" made me proud to be an American. They paid the ultimate price with their lives and to their memory, I say: "Thank you! Thank you for your unselfish service to America."

What went wrong on Murphy's Ridge? Well, several things that I won't mention so as not to spoil the story, but one thing was very apparent in the minds of those men, especially Marcus Luttrell: They never really had a chance because of the way American soldiers are forced to go to into combat.

On page 37, Luttrell states:

...each of [us] in that aircraft...had constantly in the back of our minds the ever-intrusive rules of engagement.

These are drawn up for us to follow by some politician sitting in some distant committee room in Washington, DC. And that's a very long way from the battlefield, where a sniper's bullet can blast your head, where the slightest mistake can cost your life, where you need to kill your enemy before he kills you.

And those ROE as very specific: we may not open fire until we are fired upon or have positively identified our enemy and have proof of his intentions. Now, that's all very gallant...the situation might look simple in Washington, where the human rights of terrorists are often given high priority. And I am certain liberal politicians would defend their position to the death. Because everyone knows liberals have never been wrong about anything. You can ask them. Anytime.

The language is rough in places; it's war. The story is gut-wrenching at times. As I read the last paragraph, I was sickened to think that three incredibly valiant men had died, mainly because they were not allowed to do the job for which, they were trained. I was also struck with the thought--our current President, along with the majority of our Senators and Congressmen, aren't worthy to shine to boots of these guys!

luttrell_navycrossMarcus Luttrell was awarded the Navy Cross for combat heroism in July 2006 by then President George W. Bush. The book's epilogue entitled "Lone Star" describes their meeting in detail. I had a lump in my throat as I read Luttrell's account of meeting "[the] very great United States President and my commander in chief."

Thank you, Marcus Luttrell and thank you SEAL Team 10. You guys are trully GREAT AMERICANS! To all the men and women who serve in our military: THANK YOU! There are still some of us that appreciate your service and continually pray for you safety as you endeavor to carry out a seemingly unwinnable task.

1 comment:

A Humble Preacher said...

I'd love to read this book.I can't think of anyone more deserving of our gratitude than the heroes depicted in this book.
Yet how sad that is it that the mindless,gutless politicians we keep sending to Washington have no clue how to actually achieve victory.
Surely God must weep at how this once great and powerful nation has been brought to such a state of dispair.
What a tragedy to waste the lives of such heroic men all because some spineless politicians insist that these asinine ROE be followed.
Thank God there were men who did not have to follow such absurdity while engaging the enemy upon the battlefields of Germany,Guam,Africa,France,etc...orwe would assuredly not have the freedoms we enjoy(for now).