The upcoming movie Lone Survivor is based on a true story of a Seal team tasked with hunting down a high-level Taliban leader when, of course, things go horribly wrong. I haven’t read the book written by the… ahem… lone survivor upon which the movie is based, so I don’t know how factually accurate the movie will be. But from the trailer it seems after insertion the team is discovered by a pair of herders, a man and a boy. Their choice is to either kill them both to keep their mission going, or release them knowing that they will sound the alarm as soon as they get back to the village. One of my favorite sayings is “no good deed goes unpunished”, and it comes true here. The freed prisoners sound the alarm and the four Seals are quickly trapped and under fire.
The Washington Post had a great write up back in 2007 about the incident (you can read it HERE). After the firefight, Marcus Luttrell (played by Wahlberg) was the only survivor. A Chinook tried to rescue him but was shot down by an RPG. He was taken in by a small village that then protected him from the Taliban until he could be later rescued. I’ll pull a few tidbits below.
Luttrell never felt so alone. His legs, numb and naked, reminded him of another loss. He had kept a magazine photograph of a World Trade Center victim in his pants pocket. Luttrell didn’t know the man but carried the picture on missions. He killed in the man’s unknown name.
Now Luttrell’s camouflage pants had been blasted off, and with them, the victim’s picture. Luttrell was feeling lightheaded. His muse for vengeance was gone.
Daniel Murphy, whose son Michael was killed, said he was comforted when “Mike’s admiral said, ‘Don’t think these men went down easy. There were 35 Taliban strewn on the ground.’ “
Lt. Michael Murphy (the first American awarded the Medal of Honor during the Afghanistan War) pulled himself out into the open after already being shot, exposing himself to more gunfire in order to radio for help. He was shot again while calling for help and bled out while trying to get his team rescued. A Navy Destroyer was named after him this past October (read about it HERE).
“American!” the villager said, flashing two thumbs-up. “Okay! Okay!”
“You Taliban?” Luttrell asked.
The villager’s friends arrived, carrying AK-47s. They began to argue, apparently determining Luttrell’s fate.
“I’d been in so many villages. I’d be like, ‘Up against the wall, and shut the hell up!’ So I’m like, why would these people be kind to me?” Luttrell said. “I probably killed one of their cousins. And now I’m shot up, and they’re using all the village medical supplies to help me.”
Call it karma, call it the Golden Rule, whatever… life just likes messing with you. The Seals had a choice to kill to civilians or let them go free. They chose to release them and were punished for that choice. Now here is a village with a wounded American and a choice to save him or leave him to die. They chose to save him.
The village leader not only protected him from the Taliban, but also hiked to a nearby US outpost with a hand written message from Luttrell. That message setup the eventual rescue several days after first starting the mission.
I’m always of two minds when watching these types of movies. On the one hand, it’s a clear exploitation and money grab by the studios. On the other hand, these are stories that most people will never hear about otherwise. Yeah, at it’s most fundamental it’s a war movie shoot’em’up. But it’s also a tale of moral choices… Choices made by the Taliban and US Government at a very high level. And on a more human level choices by the Seal Team to kill or release, choices by the civilians to betray or not the Seal team to the Taliban, choices by the villagers to save or not the remaining Seal. We’ll likely never hear the sub-stories around the incident like what happened to the village (if they were persecuted or not for helping Americans), and what about the families of all those killed (on both sides).
Here’s the trailer for the movie.
And go get the book (hardcover, paperback or kindle) from Amazon here: Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10