In late June of 2005, when I was in Iraq, the tragedy that became the topic of former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s bestselling book and subsequent movie entitled Lone Survivor occurred “across the Sandbox” in Afghanistan. While my 16 months living amongst the SEALS did not begin until August of that year, I soon learned why the event transcended the unspeakable loss we always felt when someone of any branch of service fell in death.
I have been told that SEALS have the lowest mortality rate of any group in any branch. This is due to the rigors of their training, which most could not endure, and the galvanizing of their brotherhood due to the extremity of deprivation, as well as the heat of battle. Clearly that was the case with Marcus, and I cannot begin to imagine what he went through. I also cannot get my head around someone killing the puppy he was given as part of his therapy. The pup was named DASY, which stood for Danny, Axe, Southern Boy, (Marcus’ nickname,) and Yankee, the members of his team. Thankfully the perpetrators have been brought to justice, and not surprisingly, Marcus has refused to become a hater.
I gave my husband a copy of the book Lone Survivor, and I have not read it yet. I did, however, make a calculated decision to go see the movie with a young woman who has become like a daughter to us, and one of my reasons was to be reminded of the courage of the ones amongst whom I lived. My husband told me he had heard that it was exceptionally gory, and he was right. He also said he wished he could be with me. It had enough of the F-bomb to last several life times, the requisite potty mouth talk, and I had to close my eyes through much of it due to the gore. It was impossible, however, to get away from the sounds.
I had a flashback in the theatre, the second Iraq flashback I have had since I came home in 2007. There was a particular explosion that sounded exactly like one on RPC in which I had to hit the floor, and there in the theatre I had to keep telling myself, “This is not that.” Tears flowed silently, at times I had to clap my hand over my mouth, and for a long time after it was over, we sat there stunned. I knew the chances of experiencing extraordinary emotional discomfort were pretty high before I went in, and I did it anyway, with my husband’s blessing, and sadly, without his hand to hold.
“Why would you do that?” you ask. “Why would you put yourself in that position?” Because I love them and miss them. But perhaps there was something else I needed to see and remember. It was the courage of the villagers who hid Marcus from the Taliban and paid dearly for it. I lived amongst members of the Iraqi Special Forces who were like that, and when some were kidnapped and one was beheaded due to an inside job, we all grieved. As Marcus has said so simply recently, “there are bad people everywhere…..there are good people everywhere.”
I was also reminded that because Marcus’ team chose to let unarmed goat herders go free based on principle, they essentially signed their own order of execution, for the Taliban returned two hours later. Death took the SEALS, but they did not stoop to the level of their enemies, and Marcus and his crew are my heroes forever. So are the villagers.
Am I saying, “Go see the flick?” Nope. Yes. Maybe. It depends on who you are and how you are wired or feel led. But if you do, you’ll have your face rubbed in the reality that these are the guys who keep us safe, and this is what they go through for us. Maybe that would be a good thing.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner